01 Aug
Biking group of older adults Do physical activities benefit the brain as you age
Physical activities for the elderly

The answer to the question; “Do physical activities benefit the brain as you age” is yes, according to research studies.  Studies show that physical activities and exercise are good for our hearts, lungs, muscles, joints, waistlines, and ability to carry out everyday activities. Epidemiological studies suggest that physical exercise may also play a role in reducing risk for Alzheimer’s disease and age-related cognitive decline. This is important, especially because it is estimated that by the year 2050, more than 115 million people will have dementia worldwide.  Exercise, like the cycling shown in the picture own the right, is associated with improved blood flow to the brain and neuronal connectivity and maintenance or improvement in brain volume.

Older adults walking Do physical activities benefit the brain as you age
Older adults participating in fitness-walking

In an article in the Journal of American Medical Association by Kaycee M. Sink and colleagues titled:  Effect of a 24-Month Physical Activity Intervention vs Health Education on Cognitive Outcomes in Sedentary Older AdultsJAMA, 2015; 314 (8): 781 DOI: 10.1001/jama.2015.9617 the researchers found that “Cognitive function remained stable over 2 years for all participants. We cannot rule out that both interventions were successful at maintaining cognitive function,” the authors write. Participants in the physical activity group who were 80 years or older and those with poorer baseline physical performance had better changes in executive function composite scores compared with the health education group. “This finding is important because executive function is the most sensitive cognitive domain to exercise interventions, and preserving it is required for independence in instrumental activities of daily living.”

Exercise results in improvement in the functions of several areas of the brain. These include areas like the medial temporal lobe and the pre-frontal cortex which that control memory and thinking respectively.

Exercise and the Brain

Bike ride by older adults Do physical activities benefit the brain as you age
Seniors enjoying bike ride

A study conducted by researchers at the University of Pittsburgh, University of Illinois, Rice University, and Ohio State University shows that one year of moderate physical exercise can increase the size of the brain’s hippocampus in older adults, leading to an improvement in spatial memory.  It is considered the first study of its kind focusing on older adults who are already experiencing atrophy of the hippocampus, the brain structure involved in all forms of memory formation. The study appeared in the Jan. 31, 2011 Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Thus, exercise helps to maintain good, and even great brain function as you grow older.

Other studies have shown that  exercise reduces stress and anxiety and improves mood and sleep. Problems in these areas can contribute to cognitive impairment

Group exercise by older adults Do physical activities benefit the brain as you age
Physical activities for older adults

So, take action, start exercising.

Standard recommendations are half an hour of moderate physical activity five days of the week, or 150 minutes a week. If you cannot meet this goal right away,  start with a few minutes a day. Then, gradually increase the amount of exercise by five or 10 minutes every week until you reach your set goal.

You can walk, bike, swim, play tennis or climb stairs. Household chores such as mopping and dusting hard floor surfaces, thoroughly cleaning bathrooms and vacuuming and sweeping all the doors in the house that gets your heart pumping so much that you break out in a light sweat.

So, eat healthy, keep moving, exercise at least three times a week, 45 minutes to one hour per session, keep learning new things and you are on your way to wellness and you would avoid rust. Please share with us your experiences about any or some of these ideas regarding the beneficial effects of physical activities on your capacity to be alert and to recall information, faces and events. The ads on the right side of this page deal with  physical and mental fitness, exercise equipments and tools, healthy diets, books on healthy living, wellness and wellbeing. Please feel free to check them out.




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