If weight maintenance is not a reason to motivate you to exercise, then perhaps this one will…
According to neuroscientists Wang and Aamodt in Welcome to Your Brain, the most effective way to prevent age-related decline of your brain is to do physical exercise.
How Does Physical Exercise Help?
It is theorised that exercise helps slow age-related cognitive decline through a combination of the following ways:
- exercise slows the decline in cortical volume that occurs with age
- exercise increases the number of small blood vessels in the brain, thereby improving the availability of glucose and oxygen to the brain cells
- exercise triggers the release of growth factors that support the growth of new connections, increases synaptic plasticity and new brain cells in the hippocampus (which is important for memory, navigation and spatial memory).
Exercise is also strongly associated with a reduced risk of dementia:
- reduces risk of developing Alzheimer’s by one third for individuals in their 70s
- reduces risk of developing Alzheimer’s by half for individuals in their 60s
So even if you don’t want to do it for yourself, consider your loved ones who will have a much harder time with you when you can’t remember who they are.
What Kind of Physical Exercise?
To keep your brain healthy with age, this is what you need to incorporate in your physical exercise to make sure it’s effective:
- it must be regular and consistent – a few times a week, every week
- it needs to raise your heart rate but it doesn’t have to be extremely strenuous – brisk walking is effective enough
- it should last at least 30 minutes each session – so your 10 minutes in the morning, 10 minutes before lunch, and 10 minutes before bedtime won’t really cut it
It’s also worth noting that it is never too late to start. Even inactive individuals in their 70s experienced cognitive improvements in just a few months after starting to exercise again.
- Aerobic exercise bulks up hippocampus, improving memory in older adults – Scientific American
- Physical, Mental Exercises Can Improve Brain Health & Memory – Psych Central