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Exercising Clears the Mind, Boost Brain Power in People Over 50

While I tend to focus more on migraine and headache issues on this blog, I thought I’d take a turn and expand on the issue of head health and wellness. In my research on this topic, I came across a very important study this morning that strengthens the notion that regular exercise boosts brain power in people ages 50 and over.

As we age, our cognitive prowess tend to take a hit. One potential way, according to researchers, is to halt or reduce this mental decline is exercise.

A Fresh Look at Aging and the Brain

In a new review of aging and the brain, scientists examine the effects aerobic exercise, resistance training (such as weights), multicomponent exercise (including both resistance and aerobic training), tai chi, and yoga had on the following cognitive functions.

  • Brain capacity – global cognition
  • Attention – sustained alertness, including speed of information processing
  • Executive function – including goal-oriented behaviors
  • Memory – storage and retrieval
  • Working memory – the part of short-term memory that deals with immediate conscious perceptual and language processing

The team’s analysis showed that exercise improved the brain power of people aged 50 and older, regardless of their current brain health.

Prescribing Exercise

Not only did the results suggest that aerobic exercise enhanced cognitive abilities,  resistance training also had a positive influence on executive function, memory, and working memory.

So how much exercise is recommended?

Scientists say sessions of moderate to vigorous intensity lasting between 45 and 60 minutes on “as many days of the week as possible” was the most beneficial to brain health.

How Exercise Reduces Cognitive Decline

According to the authors of the study, exercise works to reduce cognitive decline by:

  • the promotion of neurogenesis (growth of new nervous tissue)
  • angiogenesis (growth of new blood vessels)
  • synaptic plasticity (the ability of synapses to strengthen or weaken over time)
  • decreased pro-inflammatory processes
  • reduced cellular damage due to oxidative stress.

If physical exercise really can stave off cognitive decline, it could be a simple way of improving the lives of millions of older adults.

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