As our population ages, scientists are scrambling to understand neurological diseases such as dementia as well as ways to prevent or even cure them. In the latest study on the subject, published in Neurology, researchers focused on one specific action people can take to lower their risk of cognitive and neurological decline.
In this study, which covered 1500 women in Sweden, researchers combed through 44 years of information on physical activity levels and cognitive tests. Scientists found that women with higher fitness levels were 88 percent less likely to develop dementia compared to women with average fitness. Women who were not fit had a 41 percent higher risk of developing dementia than women with average fitness.
While it’s been common knowledge for some time now that lack of physical fitness can lead to problems with the heart and brain, even the scientists were surprised by the strong correlation between physical fitness and mental health. “I was very surprised that high fitness was so protective and that so few developed dementia in the high fitness group.” says Helena Horder, a physiotherapist from the Center for Aging and Health at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden.
Another study conducted at Goethe University in Frankfurt, Germany examined the effects of regular exercise on brain metabolism and memory of participants ages 65 to 85. They found that physical activity influenced brain metabolism in part by preventing an increase in choline, which is often found as a result of loss of nerve cells such as that found in Alzheimer’s. Regular physical exercise led to stable choline concentrations in the study group, but choline increased in the control group that was not physically active. They concluded that regular physical exercise not only enhances physical fitness but also has a positive impact on our brains and protects our cells.
For brain health, it’s recommended that we get a bare minimum of 30 minutes of exercise two to three times a week. If you’re not currently physically active, you might start with shorter sessions of ten to 15 minutes at a time, adding up to 30 minutes total in a day. Once you’re more active, increase the duration and intensity of your activity.
Fitness icon Kathy Smith recommends walking as your best starting point and especially for brain health. “Walking helps pump up those brain stimulating hormones and strengthens neural connections in the brain,” she says. If you’re not sure how to get started, try Kathy’s free audio, 40-Minute Power Walking and she’ll literally guide you every step of the way. https://www.kathysmith.com/kathys-corner/episode-14-40-minute-power-walking-audio
Building muscle is also important for both physical and brain health. Once you’re feeling more fit, add strength training to your cardiovascular routine.
As scrutiny into dementia and other brain disorders grows, scientists will continue to focus on pinpointing when during our lives the fitness benefits start affecting our risk for dementia, but it’s always a good idea to get started getting healthy right away. According to Horder, “What the results do show is that even though genes can work against you for developing dementia, through behavior you can prevent a lot of diseases.”
What better reason do you need to get started on that much needed exercise routine today?
If you’ve had trouble with motivation in the past, the BrainTap mobile app has several audio sessions designed to give you the motivation you need to get started and then make regular physical exercise a part of your normal routine. And, just as your body needs recovery time, so does your brain. With regular braintapping sessions, you’ll be protecting your brain and gaining all the benefits exercise has to offer in no time. Click HERE for your free trial!