Tag Archives: exercise and brain health

Regular physical activity to enhance cognition in children who need it most

A common school-age stereotype is that smart kids are unathletic. However, as a recent study lead by Associate Professor Keita Kamijo at the University of Tsukuba and Assistant Professor Toru Ishihara at Kobe University shows that physical activity is linked to better cognitive ability, which is in turn related to academic performance in school.

Understanding the effects of physical activity on cognition has been difficult for several reasons. “Previous studies looked at the issue too broadly,” explains Professor Kamijo, “When we broke down the data, we were able to see that physical activity helps children the most if they start out with poor executive function.”

Relationship between baseline performance and pre–post changes in cognitive performance, illustrating the group × baseline performance interaction.

Executive functions refer to three types of cognitive skills. The first is the ability to suppress impulses and inhibit reflex-like behaviors or habits. To assess this ability, children were asked to indicate the color in which words like “red” and “blue” were displayed on a computer screen. This is easy when the words and colors match (“red” displayed in red font), but often requires inhibition of a reflex response when they don’t (“red” displayed in blue font). The second skill is the ability to hold information in working memory and process it. This was evaluated by testing how well children could remember strings of letters that vary in length. The third cognitive skill is mental flexibility. This was measured by asking children to frequently switch the rules for categorizing colored circles and squares from shape-based to color-based.

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Aerobics a smart workout for your brain at any age

It’s never too late to lace up some sneakers and work up a sweat for brain health, according to a study published in the May 13, 2020, online issue of Neurology®, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology. The study suggests older adults, even couch potatoes, may perform better on certain thinking and memory tests after just six months of aerobic exercise.

“As we all find out eventually, we lose a bit mentally and physically as we age. But even if you start an exercise program later in life, the benefit to your brain may be immense,” said study author Marc J. Poulin, Ph.D., D.Phil., from the Cumming School of Medicine at the University of Calgary in Alberta, Canada. “Sure, aerobic exercise gets blood moving through your body. As our study found, it may also get blood moving to your brain, particularly in areas responsible for verbal fluency and executive functions. Our finding may be important, especially for older adults at risk for Alzheimer’s and other dementias and brain disease.”

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Brain benefits of exercise can be gained with a single protein

A little-studied liver protein may be responsible for the well-known benefits of exercise on the aging brain, according to a new study in mice by scientists in the UC San Francisco Eli and Edythe Broad Center for Regeneration Medicine and Stem Cell Research. The findings could lead to new therapies to confer the neuroprotective effects of physical activity on people who are unable to exercise due to physical limitations.

Exercise is one of the best-studied and most powerful ways of protecting the brain from age-related cognitive decline and has been shown to improve cognition in individuals at risk of neurodegenerative disease such as Alzheimer’s disease and frontotemporal dementia — even those with rare gene variants that inevitably lead to dementia.

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Walking: Key To Staying Active and Independent

Did you get your 10,000 steps today? Many people have adopted this daily walking goal to obtain the recommended amount of physical activity. The 10,000-steps-a-day number comes from the Japanese brand name of a pedometer manufactured in the 1960s, the “10,000 steps meter.” In the Fitbit era, counting daily steps remains appealing to many people as a source of motivation.

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

In the US, adults are urged to get the equivalent of 150 minutes per week of moderate intensity exercise. Walking is a popular way to meet those recommendations, particularly in older adults or people who are relatively physically inactive.

Although 10,000 steps is a worthy challenge, aiming for more exercise than you normally get—unless you are one of the few who regularly trains for marathons or triathlons—comes with benefits. Any amount or type of physical activity adds to your daily goal. Regularly taking the stairs instead of the elevator, or parking farther away from your destination, can make a measurable improvement in your health.

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Men: Exercise Can Do a Lot More for You than Build Muscle

Men face some serious health risks. The two most serious ones, heart disease and cancer, account for nearly half of deaths among American men. Unintentional injuries like falls are the third most common cause of death for men. Lung disease and stroke round out the top five, according to Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois.

The good news: Along with other healthy lifestyle choices, the right kinds of physical activity can help prevent these and other health threats.

Ward Off Heart Disease: Get Moving

Aerobic exercise such as walking, swimming, running or biking strengthens your heart and lowers your blood pressure. Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic activity five days per week. You don’t have to do it all at once. Three 10-minute walks can be as effective as one 30-minute walk at lowering blood pressure.

You can even get in activity during the work day. Break up the long hours at a desk by getting up and moving around at least once an hour. Just taking a short two-minute stroll can help to keep blood sugar levels stable. When you can, stand up to take breaks from sitting.

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Neighborhood features affect cognitive function in seniors

As a senior citizen who has had family members suffer from dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease, I want to know everything I can about aging and cognition, so this study from Florida Atlantic University piqued my interest.

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The neighborhood environment may positively or negatively influence one’s ability to maintain cognitive function with age. Since older adults spend less time outside, the neighborhood environment increases in importance with age. Studies suggest physical aspects of the neighborhood such as the availability of sidewalks and parks, and more social and walking destinations, may be associated with better cognitive functioning. Beneficial neighborhood environments can provide spaces for exercise, mental stimulation, socializing and reducing stress. To date, few studies have examined how the neighborhood’s physical environment relates to cognition in older adults. Continue reading

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I am 80 years old today!?

Holy crap! I am an octogenarian! I can’t believe it. I don’t feel that old. In fact, having been retired for 20 years now, I can honestly say, I feel better and healthier now than when I was working and in my ’50’s. I rode my bike 25 miles yesterday in Chicago’s balmy 30 degree weather and I plan to do the same this morning. Lucky me!

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This is my birthday picture from a few years back. It’s the only one I have that’s decorated. Also, my pup is in it, too.

This is from my birthday blog post last year:

One of the main reasons I feel like I have things so together is this blog. I started writing it in March of 2010 with a partner who has since left for other pursuits. From the beginning, I discovered a focus. At first it was simply trying to keep my weight down. I learned portion control and serving size. This Italian guy was surprised to learn that a “serving” of pasta was not a 10 inch plate heaped with spaghetti noodles smothered in tomato sauce. No, a 200 calorie serving of pasta is about the size of a baseball. Incredibly, that was a revelation to me. I put the information to use. I began to reduce my portions accordingly. I am not going to recount all the lessons I learned in the past nearly 10 years, but if you want to get control of your own weight, check out my Page – How to Lose Weight – and Keep it Off. Continue reading

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Your brain needs physical exercise – Scientific American

I have written repeatedly about the brain benefits from physical exercise. Asregular readers know, I have a visceral interest in this having lost three family members to dementia. My mother suffered from dementia. Her sister died of Alzheimer’s Disease and my father’s father also was cognitively challenged. That goes back to the mid 1940’s when far less was understood about cognition in general.

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Scientific American illustration by Tami Tolpa

Now comes the latest issue of Scientific American with fresh insights into the brain/exercise situation:

People often consider walking and running to be activities that the body is able to perform on autopilot. But research carried out over the past decade by us and others would indicate that this folk wisdom is wrong. Instead exercise seems to be as much a cognitive activity as a physical one….

But simply exercising more may not realize the full potential of physical activity for keeping brain decline at bay. Indeed, our model suggests that even people who already get a lot of aerobic activity may want to rethink their routines. It is possible that we might not always exercise in ways that take full advantage of our evolved mechanisms for sustaining brain performance….

… we have developed a game designed to specifically challenge aspects of cognition that tend to decline with age and that are probably needed during foraging. In the game, players spatially navigate and complete attention and memory tasks while cycling at a moderate aerobic intensity level.

Tony

 

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Muscle loss linked to cognitive decline

I have written repeatedly about the benefits of exercise on both the body and brain. It turns out that there seems to be a link between loss of muscle mass, sarcopenia, and cognitive decline.

Sarcopenia, the loss of muscle mass, tends to happen naturally with age. So, in older people with sarcopenia, excess body fat may not be readily visible. But hidden fat, paired with muscle mass loss later in life, could predict Alzheimer’s risk, researchers warn.

A recent study — the results of which have been published in the journal Clinical Interventions in Aging — has found that sarcopenia and obesity (independently, but especially when occurring together) can heighten the risk of cognitive function impairments later in life.

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The research was conducted by scientists at the Comprehensive Center for Brain Health at the Charles E. Schmidt College of Medicine of Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton.

“Sarcopenia,” explains senior study author Dr. James Galvin, “has been linked to global cognitive impairment and dysfunction in specific cognitive skills including memory, speed, and executive functions.” Continue reading

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Exercise and heart-healthy diet may slow memory problems developing

Cognitive impairment without dementia (CIND), or mild cognitive impairment, is a condition that affects your memory and may put you at risk for Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. According to the U.S. National Library for Medicine, signs of mild cognitive impairment may include frequently losing things, forgetting to go to events and appointments, and having more trouble coming up with words than other people of your age.

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My go-to exercise is biking. My dog comes along when the weather is willing. At 79, everything seems to be working …

Some experts believe that risk factors for heart disease also are risk factors for dementia and late-life cognitive decline and dementia. Recently, researchers examined two potential ways to slow the development of CIND based on what we know about preventing heart disease. They published the results of their study in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. Continue reading

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Improved fitness can mean living longer without dementia – Study

“It is important to say that it is never too late to begin exercising. The average participant in our study was around 60 years old at baseline, and improvement in cardio-respiratory fitness was strongly linked to lower dementia risk. Those who had poor fitness in the 1980s but improved it within the next decade could expect to live two years longer without dementia,” says Atefe Tari of the Cardiac Exercise Research Group (CERG) at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU).

photo of man stretching

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Tari is lead author of a new study that was recently published in Lancet Public Health, a highly ranked journal in the prestigious Lancet family.

“Persistently low fitness is an independent risk factor for dementia and death due to dementia,” the authors concluded. Continue reading

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Aging folks worried about dementia risk

Nearly half of Americans in their 50s and early 60s think they’re likely to develop dementia as they grow older, but only 5% of them have actually talked with a doctor about what they could do to reduce their risk, a new study finds. 

Meanwhile, a third or more say they’re trying to stave off dementia by taking supplements or doing crossword puzzles – despite the lack of proof that such tactics work. 

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The new findings suggest a need for better counseling for middle-aged Americans about the steps they can take to keep their brains healthy as they age.

Meanwhile, pharmaceutical companies continue to work on potential dementia-preventing medications. But an over-estimation of future dementia risk by individuals may lead to costly over-use of such products, the researchers warn.

The new results appear in a research letter in the new edition of JAMA Neurology, and a presentation at the Gerontological Society of America’s annual meeting.

Both are by members of a team from the University of Michigan’s Institute for Healthcare Policy and Innovation who analyzed data from a nationally representative poll of 1,019 adults between the ages of 50 and 64.

Donovan Maust, M.D., M.S., a geriatric psychiatrist specializing in dementia-related care and lead author of the JAMA Neurology letter, notes that even among the oldest Americans, the risk of dementia is lower than one in three people over age 85.

Risk starts rising around age 65, and is higher among people of Latino or African-American heritage. Continue reading

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Number of people with dementia will double in twenty years

Regular readers are aware of my serious interest in dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease because I have lost several family members to a form of dementia. That is one of the reasons for my focus in this blog. There is no silver bullet to avoid Alzheimer’s yet, but exercise seems to work for keeping dementia at bay. Check out my Page – Important facts about your brain – (and exercise benefits) to learn more.

A new report projects the number of people living with dementia in the US will double to 13 million by 2040. The report estimates that the number of women diagnosed with dementia will rise to 8.5 million, and the number of men with dementia will reach 4.5 million. Source: Milken Institute

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Women caregivers are more likely to be impacted financially and leave their jobs or miss work to care for a family member. The image is in the public domain.

The number of Americans living with Alzheimer’s disease or other dementias will double to nearly 13 million over the next 20 years, according to the new Milken Institute report “Reducing the Cost and Risk of Dementia: Recommendations to Improve Brain Health and Decrease Disparities.”

Milken Institute research estimates that by 2020, roughly 4.7 million women in the US will have dementia, accounting for nearly two-thirds of all people living with the condition.

The number of both women and men living with dementia is projected to nearly double by 2040, with the number of women projected to rise to 8.5 million, and the number of men expected to reach 4.5 million (up from 2.6 million in 2020), according to the report, which was released at the 2019 Milken Institute Future of Health Summit in Washington, D.C.

Over the next 20 years, the economic burden of dementia will exceed $2 trillion, with women shouldering more than 80 percent of the cumulative costs.

“Longer lifespans are perhaps one of the greatest success stories of our modern public health system,” explains Nora Super, lead author of the report and senior director of the Milken Institute Center for the Future of Aging. “But along with this success comes one of our greatest challenges. Our risk of developing dementia doubles every five years after we turn 65; by age 85, nearly one in three of us will have the disease.”

“With no cure in sight, we must double down on efforts to reduce the cost and risk of dementia,” she added. “Emerging evidence shows that despite family history and personal genetics, lifestyle changes such as diet, exercise, and better sleep can improve health at all ages.”

In collaboration with partners such as UsAgainstAlzheimer’s, AARP and Bank of America, Super and her co-authors, Rajiv Ahuja and Kevin Proff, have developed detailed recommendations and goals for policymakers, businesses, and communities to improve brain health, reduce disparities, and ultimately change the trajectory of this devastating disease.

1) Promote strategies to maintain and improve brain health for all ages, genders, and across diverse populations
2) Increase access to cognitive testing and early diagnosis

3) Increase opportunities for diverse participation in research and prioritize funding to address health disparities

4) Build a dementia-capable workforce across the care continuum

5) Establish services and policies that promote supportive communities and workplaces for people with dementia and their caregivers

“As this important new report shows, dementia is one of the greatest public health challenges of our time,” said Sarah Lenz Lock, SVP, Policy & Brain Health at AARP. “It also demonstrates that we have the power to create change, whether by helping consumers maintain and improve their brain health, advancing research on the causes and treatment of dementia, or supporting caregivers who bear so much of the burden of this disease. We at AARP look forward to working with the Milken Institute and other key partners to achieve these goals.”

“Brain health broadens the fight against Alzheimer’s to include everyone and is the key to defeating stigma, increasing early detection, speeding up research — and ending this disease,” said Jill Lesser, a founding board member of UsAgainstAlzheimer’s. “This new look by the Milken Institute offers important recommendations and actions to help move us to an optimal system of brain health care in this country.”

Among the breakthrough findings, new data have “unveiled key discoveries about the differences between men’s and women’s brains, and how they age. Moreover, women typically take on greater caregiver responsibilities than men. Women caregivers are more likely to be impacted financially and leave their jobs or miss work to care for a family member. And research demonstrates that spousal caregivers may be at a higher risk of cognitive impairment or dementia than non-caregivers.”

“With this research, the Milken Institute has taken an important step to better understand the impacts of dementia on diverse populations,” said Lorna Sabbia, Head of Retirement and Personal Wealth Solutions, Bank of America. “This study, together with our own research on life stages, women, health and wellness, plays a critically important role in our efforts to educate and provide guidance to individuals and families throughout their financial lives.”

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Fitter adults have more fit brains – Study

I have posted numerous times on exercise benefiting the brain as much as the body. But, I have been primarily interested in preserving brain function into our senior years. Here is fresh information immediate brain benefits from physical exercise for all ages.

In a large study, German scientists have shown that physical fitness is associated with better brain structure and brain functioning in young adults. This opens the possibility that increasing fitness levels may lead to improved cognitive ability, such as memory and problem solving, as well as improved structural changes in the brain. This work is presented for the first time at the ECNP Congress in Copenhagen, with simultaneous publication in the peer-reviewed journal Scientific Reports.

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Scientists have previously shown that “exercise is good for the brain,” but most studies have not controlled for underlying causes which might give distorted results, such as body weight, blood glucose levels, education status, age and other factors, making it difficult to take an overall view of the benefits. In addition, studies have rarely looked at fitness in relations to both brain structure and mental functioning.

The scientists used a publicly available database of 1206 MRI brain scans from the Human Connectome Project, which had been contributed by volunteers who wanted to contribute to scientific research. The volunteers (average age 30 years old) underwent some additional testing. The first test was a “two-minute walking test”, where each person was asked to walk as fast as possible for 2 minutes and the distance was then measured. The volunteers then underwent a series of cognitive tests***, to measure such things as memory, sharpness, judgement, and reasoning.

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Thinking about your brain – infographic

I love this infographic of the brain. Surprisingly, they left out one of the most impressive facts to me, namely, that the brain burns 20 to 25 percent of our daily calories. Bigger than any single muscle.

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Before you go, please check out my Page – Important facts about your brain (and exercise benefits) for a lot more details on this major organ in our body.

Tony

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How exercise may protect against Alzheimer’s – Study

As a senior citizen whose family has Alzheimer’s and dementia on both sides I am keenly interested in anything on the subject. Herewith a study published in Nature Medicine.

Athletes know a vigorous workout can release a flood of endorphins: “feel-good” hormones that boost mood. Now there’s evidence that exercise produces another hormone that may improve memory and protect against Alzheimer’s disease, according to a study co-led by Ottavio Arancio, MD, PhD, a researcher at Columbia University’s Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons and Taub Institute for Research on Alzheimer’s Disease and the Aging Brain.

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Physical activity is known to improve memory, and studies suggest it may also reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. But researchers don’t understand why. Continue reading

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