And yet another reason to get up and exercise—physical activity protects against Alzheimer’s disease!
A recent study funded by the National Institutes of Health looked that individuals aged 65 to 89 who were genetically at risk for this devastating disease. After 18 months, those who participated in moderate or vigorous physical activity at least three days per week had no shrinkage of the hippocampus, the part of the brain that shrinks as Alzheimer’s progresses.
These findings add to a growing body of evidence, from animal studies and human clinical trials to epidemiological observations, that exercise, specifically cardio, helps protects the brain from the ravages of aging.
While the exact mechanisms by which exercise guards against cognitive decline require more research, here’s what we currently know:
1) Blood pressure. Physical activity helps control blood pressure, resulting in less strain on the brain. Data from the Framingham Offspring Study, which looked at 1,352 individuals, showed that those with high blood pressure experienced more rapid decline in planning and decision-making tests.
2) Diabetes. With aging, we have less regulation of blood glucose levels. A study from the University of Arizona found an association between Alzheimer’s disease and high blood sugar in folks aged 47 to 68. Exercise helps insulin work better, keeping glucose levels down.
3) Obesity. Exercise burns calories and is critical for long-term weight maintenance. According to John J. Ratey, MD, in his 2008 book, Spark, being overweight doubles the chances of developing dementia. A study presented in 2012 looked at the effects of caloric consumption on memory. The results? In seniors aged 70 to 89, those who ate the most (2,143 – 6,000 calories daily) were more than twice as likely to be diagnosed with the impaired-memory disorder.
In addition, aerobic exercise strengthens the connections in the brain, protects against stress, boosts the immune system, builds new brain cells, and makes you feel better! Why wouldn’t you get more active?
Exercise really is the best preventive medicine we have!
Discover more benefits of physical activity in my free ebook.