How do you feel after you exercise?
Speaking from my own personal experience, I can assure you that exercise allows me to focus better on the job, in the gym, or on whatever task I need to do. My day begins early, but after several hours, I take a break and go to the gym for a while. When I get back to work, I feel invigorated, energized, and ready to finish my day off strong.
There is no doubt in my mind that regular exercise improves my body, my mental clarity, and my mood. But if you haven’t felt this sense of mental clarity after a great workout at the gym or run outside, you may be doubtful of these effects. If you find yourself in that camp, not to worry; some new evidence I came across today can give you the renewed confidence you need to start a regular program of physical activity that will boost your mental awareness. (And this new research is especially appealing to those who are a bit older and wish to age gracefully.)
The newly published report I came across indicates that regular, long-term participation in aerobic exercise can prevent decreases in cognitive and physical function associated with aging. This study was based on the participation of 39 older adults who had an average age of 78. They were randomly assigned to a group who cycled every day for at least 15 minutes for a 15-month period or a control group who did no physical exercise.
Before and after the 15-month period, all the participants were subjected to various tests that measured cognitive ability and psychomotor speed. The results indicated that those who participated in the exercise group had better scores relating to cognition and psychomotor speed contrasted to the control group, whose level of cognition generally had diminished during the study period.
According to the author of this study, Dr. Seijo-Martinez, “We conclude that the practice of continuous long-term aerobic physical exercise seems to have a neuroprotective effect on cognitive status and psychomotor speed in elderly nondemented individuals.”
In my opinion, regularly following a physical activity program can influence the brain in many ways. Exercise reduces blood pressure, cholesterol, triglycerides, and blood sugar, while it improves insulin sensitivity. Regular exercise controls excessive body fat accumulation and keeps levels of inflammation lower. All of these factors affect the arteries inside the brain and their ability to carry blood and oxygen to the brain cells. The control of blood sugar levels through the regular participation in exercise programs can also prevent advanced glycation end-products (AGEs) from forming. These AGE molecules can damage nerve cells and the connections between them, making normal brain function less likely.
Age-related cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s are currently huge health concerns in our older population. If these conditions can be prevented—or even delayed—through lifestyle interventions like regular exercise, can you imagine the impact this could potentially have on your quality of life as you age?
The effects of regular exercise on our health, regardless of our age, are too important to ignore! This study is just another reason why it’s crucial to become much more physically active, starting with the development of a regular exercise program that suits your needs and goals.
Sources for Today’s Article:
Anderson, P., “Aerobic Exercise Preserves Cognition in Nondemented Elderly,” Medscape web site, May 1, 2014; http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/824437.
American Academy of Neurology (AAN) 66th Annual Meeting, presented April 28, 2014 (Abstract P1.004).