Category Archives: exercise and brain health

Exercise Creates Optimal Brain State for Mastering New Motor Skills

As I have said numerous times here, I love it when fresh news meets my bias. The one I am thinking about is how physical exercise benefits brain function. You can check out my post – Can exercise help me to learn? And, don’t forget my Page – Important facts about your brain – and exercise benefits.

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If you want to learn to walk a tightrope, it’s a good idea to go for a short run after each practice session. That’s because a recent study in NeuroImage demonstrates that exercise performed immediately after practicing a new motor skill improves its long-term retention. More specifically, the research shows, for the first time, that as little as a single fifteen-minute bout of cardiovascular exercise increases brain connectivity and efficiency. It’s a discovery that could, in principle, accelerate recovery of motor skills in patients who have suffered a stroke or who face mobility problems following an injury. Continue reading

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Frequent aerobic exercise cuts schizophrenia negative symptoms – Study

More good news on exercise this morning. Writing in the British Psychological Society Research Digest, Emma Young reports positive news on the move more section of our eat less; move more; live longer mantra.

Aerobic exercise – any activity that gets your heart pumping harder – improves mood, anxiety and memory. It can help people with major depressive disorder, bipolar disorder and anxiety disorder. Now there’s evidence, from a randomized controlled trial published in Frontiers in Psychiatry, that a program of regular aerobic exercise also reduces psychopathology in people diagnosed with schizophrenia. And it seems to have a particular impact on so-called “negative” symptoms, such as apathy and loss of emotional feeling, which are not improved by standard drug treatments.

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“[W]hile antipsychotics [drug treatments] are essential in treating schizophrenia, interventions other than antipsychotic treatment…may be needed to achieve better outcomes,” write the authors of the new study, led by Peng-Wei Wang at Kaohsiung Medical University Hospital in Taiwan. Continue reading

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How Much Exercise is Needed to Help Improve Thinking Skills?

Eat less; move more; live longer remains the mantra of this blog. Herewith another example of the value of the move more element. We all want to live longer, but that has little meaning if we don’t have a fully functional brain to power us through. I talk about the value of exercise regularly here. Now we have a study that quantifies the amount of movement relevant to benefit our brain.

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We know that exercise may help improve thinking skills. But how much exercise? And for how long?

To find the answers, researchers led by Joyce Gomes-Osman, Ph.D., PT, assistant professor of clinical physical therapy and neurology at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, reviewed all of the studies in which older adults were asked to exercise for at least four weeks and then take tests of thinking and memory skills. Their results were compared to those of people who did not start a new exercise routine. The review was published in the May 30 online issue of Neurology Clinical Practice, an official journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

The researchers found that people who exercised an average of at least 52 hours over about six months for about an hour each session may improve their thinking skills. In contrast, people who exercised for an average of 34 hours over the same time period did not show any improvement in their thinking skills. Continue reading

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Leg exercise critical to brain and nervous system health – Study

Groundbreaking research shows that neurological health depends as much on signals sent by the body’s large, leg muscles to the brain as it does on directives from the brain to the muscles. Published in Frontiers in Neuroscience, the study fundamentally alters brain and nervous system medicine—giving doctors new clues as to why patients with motor neuron disease, multiple sclerosis, spinal muscular atrophy and other neurological diseases often rapidly decline when their movement becomes limited.

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“Our study supports the notion that people who are unable to do load-bearing exercises—such as patients who are bed-ridden, or even astronauts on extended travel—not only lose muscle mass, but their body chemistry is altered at the cellular level and even their nervous system is adversely impacted,” says Dr. Raffaella Adami from the Università degli Studi di Milano, Italy. Continue reading

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Higher aerobic fitness associated with better word production skills in healthy seniors

Here we have more good news on the exercise/brain front. Eat less; move more; live longer really works on all levels it seems.

Healthy older people who exercise regularly are less inclined to struggle to find words to express themselves, research led by the University of Birmingham has discovered.

Researchers found that older adults’ aerobic fitness levels are directly related to the incidence of age-related language failures such as ‘tip-of-the-tongue’ states.

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The research, published in Scientific Reports, is the first of its kind to investigate the relationship between aerobic fitness levels and temporary cognitive lapses, such as not having a word come to mind when speaking – known as a ‘tip-of-the-tongue’ state.

People in a tip-of-the-tongue state have a strong conviction that they know a word, but are unable to produce it, and this phenomena occurs more frequently as we grow older. Continue reading

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Stronger people have healthier brains – Study

Herewith another log on the fire. Eat less; move more; live longer remains the mantra here. I was aware of the brain benefits of aerobic exercise, now, it seems that strength training also contributes.

A study of nearly half a million people has revealed that muscular strength, measured by hand grip, is an indication of how healthy our brains are.

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Dr. Joseph Firth, an Honorary Research Fellow at The University of Manchester and Research Fellow at NICM Health Research Institute at Western Sydney University, crunched the numbers using UK Biobank data.

Using data from the 475,397 participants from all around the U.K., the new study showed that on average, stronger people performed better across every test of brain functioning used. Continue reading

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Sweat – Don’t Forget: Exercise Breaks Improve Learning

It is becoming clearer to me with every day that passes – exercise is the key to a better life. Everyone understands the first level – that our bodies crave movement. But new research continues to unearth fresh benefits for our bodies globally. Every aspect of our life and being tends to benefit from exercise. Just scroll back through this blog at the last 10 posts and you will find one after the other example of this.

New research from a team of scientists at McMaster University suggests that brief exercise breaks during lectures can help university students focus their attention, retain information and improve overall learning.

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While the benefits of exercise are well-known for school-aged children, this is the first study to examine the benefits for adult students. The findings are published online in the Journal of Applied Research in Memory and Cognition.

For the study, researchers examined three groups of first-year Introductory Psychology students, who were tasked with watching a 50-minute online lecture. One cohort performed a series of brief, calisthenic exercises at regular breaks during the lecture, another took breaks but played a video game, and a final group did not take any break. Continue reading

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Physical Activity May Influence the Health of Future Offspring

It just keeps getting better. The mantra of my blog is eat less; move more; live longer. That has always referred to yourself, present and future, mind and body. Now comes a fascinating study from Germany that suggests that the exercise you do today may well influence the health of your future offspring. What could be better than that?

Physical and mental exercise is not only beneficial for your own brain, but can also affect the learning ability of future offspring – at least in mice. This particular form of inheritance is mediated by certain RNA molecules that influence gene activity. These molecules accumulate in both the brain and germ cells following physical and mental activity.

Prof. André Fischer and colleagues from the German Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases (DZNE) in Göttingen and Munich and the University Medical Center Göttingen (UMG) report these findings in the journal Cell Reports.

 

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It is known that physical activity and cognitive training also improve learning ability in humans. However, it is not so easy to study in humans whether learning ability can be inherited epigenetically. NeuroscienceNews.com image is in the public domain.

Continue reading

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Exercise helps overcome negative effects of stress – Study

I have written numerous times about using deep breathing to combat stress. Turns out that a recent study from Brigham Young University says that exercise helps to combat negative effects of stress.

The study, newly published in the journal of Neurobiology of Learning and Memory, finds that running mitigates the negative impacts chronic stress has on the hippocampus, the part of the brain responsible for learning and memory.

 

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“Exercise is a simple and cost-effective way to eliminate the negative impacts on memory of chronic stress,” said study senior author Jeff Edwards, associate professor of physiology and developmental biology at BYU.

“The ideal situation for improving learning and memory would be to experience no stress and to exercise,” Edwards said. “Of course, we can’t always control stress in our lives, but we can control how much we exercise. It’s empowering to know that we can combat the negative impacts of stress on our brains just by getting out and running.”

To see the paper online, click here. Ten undergraduate BYU students served as co-authors on the paper, included David Marriott, who began the project for his undergraduate honor’s thesis. First author Roxanne Miller graduated in December with her Ph.D. and the research was part of her dissertation.

“Even though we will never be able to completely remove stress from our lives, it is nice to know that we can go out and do cardiovascular exercise for 20 minutes a day to help keep the stress from overwhelming our brains,” Miller said.

To read further on the benefits of exercise and the brain check out my Page – Important facts about your brain (and exercise benefits).

 

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A Lifetime of Regular Exercise Slows Down Aging

Regular readers know that I ride my bike pretty much daily here in Chicago and my 78th birthday occurred in January. I wrote about my physical condition then, but I have to tell you that finding this study was like a wonderful belated birthday present.

According to researchers, older adults who exercised for most of their lives showed signs of slowed down aging. The study reports those who actively cycled into older age had lower cholesterol levels and better immune systems than those who did not partake in regular exercise.

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Here I am with my trusty riding companion, Gabi, who just turned 12 in December.

Researchers at the University of Birmingham and King’s College London have found that staying active keeps the body young and healthy.

The researchers set out to assess the health of older adults who had exercised most of their adult lives to see if this could slow down aging. Continue reading

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Send your brain a Valentine

We are sending our loved ones greetings cards and chocolates next week. Let’s not forget that two pound organ in our heads that keeps the show on the road. 

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Here are 10 tips from the Alzheimer’s Association to help protect your brain from decline  as you age. Please don’t wait till you are in your 60’s to start thinking about your brain health. The sooner your pay attention to it the better off you will be. 
1 Break a sweat
Engage in regular cardiovascular exercise that elevates your heart rate and increases blood flow to the brain and body. Several studies have found an association between physical activity and reduced risk of cognitive decline.

I write about exercise and the brain regularly. Check out my Page – Important facts about your brain (and exercise benefits) to learn more about this. 

2 Hit the books
Formal education in any stage of life will help reduce your risk of cognitive decline and dementia. For example, take a class at a local college, community center or online. Continue reading

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The impact of exercise on the brain

On the premise that one picture is worth 1000 words, here are 2000 words worth of pictures. Regular readers know I feel strongly about the positive impact of exercise on the brain. If you would like to read further on it, check out my Page – Important facts about your brain (and exercise benefits).

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Tony

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Feeding your body and your brain – Infographic

For the record, this has nothing to do with losing weight, but everything to do with providing your body and your brain with proper nourishment. I especially liked the final segment which points out how your brain benefits from exercise. 

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Massaging Brain Cells to Fight Alzheimer’s

I have written repeatedly about physical exercise benefiting the brain. It seems that now a new study has found a way to actually stimulate the brain cells which may benefit individuals suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease.

Some researchers at Montana State University have a light touch when it comes to unraveling the mysteries of the brain and exploring new ways to treat diseases like Alzheimer’s.

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A team led by Anja Kunze, assistant professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, uses tiny magnets to stretch small branches of individual brain cells in her lab.

“It’s a very gentle force,” Kunze said. “It would be like getting a massage.” Continue reading

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Turn your exercise into fun – Harvard study

Eat less, move more, live longer. Sometimes those simple rules are easier said than done. I am blessed that I love riding my bike. No one needs to get me riding every day. I can’t wait to get out there. That isn’t the case for most folks. Additionally, I use an Apple watch to track my activity and keep me aware of my goals . You can check out my Page – How my Apple watch is good for your health here. I hadn’t realized at the time that the watch turned my exercise into a game.

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Gabi and me riding in Chicago’s famous Bike the Drive ride.

Does exercise sometimes feel like an annoying chore? Adding a little friendly competition and other “gamification” strategies just might help, according to a new study.

The six-month-long study included 94 families who tracked their daily step counts with a wearable device or a smartphone. Just over half of the participants were women, and their average age was 55. Half were randomly chosen for the gamification arm of the study, which was designed to encourage collaboration, accountability, and team spirit. These families received small prizes tied to achieving daily and weekly step goals. They boosted their daily walking distance by almost a mile — more than twice the gains achieved by people who weren’t part of the competition. Continue reading

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Age: It’s Just a Number

There are some superb concepts in this post that are in harmony with much of what I have written on living a long, healthy, happy life with your brain still functioning throughout. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

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Tony

The Other Side of 55

“Age is just a number, and agelessness means not buying into the idea that a number determines everything from your state of health to your attractiveness to your value. You can be younger at 60 than you were at 30 because you’ve changed your attitude and your lifestyle. To be ageless is to defy the rules of what it supposedly means to be this age or that age. It is, quite simply, to never ‘grow old’ – to never feel as if the best days are behind you and it’s all downhill from here.”

Christiane Northrup, M.D. (from ‘Goddesses Never Age’).

There’s a great line in the original Crocodile Dundee movie when Sue asks Mick when he was born and he says, “In the summer”. He has no idea how many years he has lived (i.e., how ‘old’ he is), and so his age doesn’t limit him…

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