Whoever said that exercising is recommended for all ages was absolutely right. Besides the well-known health benefits, it was proven that exercise can also keep the brain healthy in old age.
In most cases, older adults with poor fitness levels have can have an increased level of deteriorated white matter in their brains, which was linked with a decline in decision-making function, but also early signs of memory loss. Automatically, this means that regular exercise can have an impact on slowing cognitive decline and even dementia.
A group of researchers from the UT Southwestern Medical Center recruited a group of 55 older adults with mild cognitive impairment – first signs of memory problems – as well as 26 adults with no signs of this problem. Using imaging techniques, they studied the white matter in their brains and measured the level of oxygen their lungs can utilize during a treadmill exercise.
Besides this, a series of tests were also performed, in order to evaluate the executive functions. The latter involves mental skills used for decision-making and problem solving, but also planning and executing tasks. As a side note, all these skill sets suffer in people with cognitive problems caused by age.
Researchers found that older adults, with increased cardiorespiratory fitness, had a reduced deterioration of the white-matter fibers in their brains. And this turned out to be true in both groups of people that participated in the study, whether they had mild cognitive impairments or not.
As a side note, the study revealed that in adults with MCI, white matter integrity was associated with executive function. Basically, the healthier the white matter fibers are, the better people’s scores were on the tests for critical thinking and planning skills.
Put together, the results of this research actually strengthens a long-held hypothesis: exercising in old age, in order to maintain a good fitness level, at least, has a chance of protecting the brain from dementia.
“That’s exciting because the field right now is challenging,” says Rong Zhang, neurology professor at UT Southwestern’s O’Donnell Brain Institute. “Even though we suspect it, there hasn’t really been any conclusive evidence that exercise can have an impact on the development of dementia.”
However, there is still a lot of room for progress.
Back in 2017, the National Academics of Sciences revealed that despite all the advances in understanding dementia, all the progress towards discovering a treatment and how to prevent it “remains relatively limited and has significant shortcomings.” But still, the idea that keeping physical activity increased can delay or slow age-related cognitive decline is – at least for the moment- supported by “encouraging but inconclusive evidence.”
A lot of experts in this field think that maintaining a good physical condition, through exercise, can keep the blood flow through the brain tissue at normal levels, thus reducing the risk of dementia. There have also been studies showing that aerobic exercise stimulates growth hormones release, which improves brain functions.
To wrap it up, we haven’t reached that point in which we can claim that daily exercising is able to totally keep dementia away. However, if you – as you advance in age make exercising your priority, it’s an excellent habit, great for your brain.
In order to do this, you need a great place where you can train and the Fitness 360 Center, based in Clearwater, is definitely the perfect location. A premier workout facility, for all ages and lifestyles, where you can find dedicated people, with one important mission: motivate you, keep you dedicated and help you achieve results, so you can live a fit and healthy life.
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