New study finds exercise may help preserve the brain

December 5, 2012

By Betty Murray

Alzheimer’s is a disease we have yet to find a cure for. Scientists and doctors are more aware of the risk factors associated with Alzheimer’s, but have yet to find a way to stop or delay onset of the disease. However, new research is pointing to exercise as a means for preserving brain function.

A study in the journal of Neurology suggests working out is more effective for memory and brain function preservation than cognitive games and puzzles.
The study of 700 participants in Scotland looked at physical activity of the participants, all who were born in 1936 and were 70 at the time the study began. Three years later, MRI images showed less brain shrinkage and fewer white matter lesions — both of which are associated with Alzheimer’s — in the participants who participated in more physical activity.

Exercise is essential for a healthy heart. An unhealthy heart isn’t able to efficiently pump blood to the rest of the body, including the brain. Without blood, the brain becomes damaged.

Studies presented at the 2012 Alzheimer’s Association International Conference, reveal the breakdown in benefits of specific forms of exercise for a healthy mind. These studies found that resistance training — weight lifting or use of resistance bands — was most beneficial for improving cognitive function in aging adults. Resistance exercise could even help prevent dementia.

One of the studies presented compared the benefits of weight lifting, walking and balance and tone exercises. Study participants (all women between 70 and 80 years old) were divided into three exercise groups. Each group performed their specified form of exercise twice a week for six months.

According to Dr. Teresa Liu Ambrose, study results found that all participants benefitted from the exercise. MRI scans of each participant’s brain showed they all had improved brain function following the six months of exercise.

Participants were also underwent testing of attention, memory and planning — all cognitive functions that are affected by dementia. The women in the weight-training group showed were most improved in the cognitive functions testing. More detailed studies found that those with most improved cognitive abilities started with higher brain function.
How does this apply to you?

Get off the couch and get moving. Physical activity, especially strength training, may be just what you need to preserve cognitive function and memory into your later adult years. Weight lifting and resistance exercises will help keep your body lean and toned, but ultimately, they will also keep your brain functioning at its best.

Betty Murray, CN, HHC, RYT is a Certified Nutritionist & Holistic Health Counselor, founder of the Dallas-based integrative medical center, Wellness and founder of the Metabolic Blueprint wellness program. Betty’s nutrition counseling practice specializes in metabolic and digestive disorders and weight loss resistance. A master of the biochemistry of the body, Betty teaches her clients how to utilize nutritional interventions to improve their health. Betty is a member of the National Association of Nutrition Professionals.

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