Can fitness improve brain health?

Brain benefits of fitness It may surprise you to know that over 47 million people lived with dementia in 2015. It kills more people than breast and prostate cancer combined. We have a growing and aging population, it is estimated that 135 million people will suffer from dementia by 2050. New research from the University of Sydney has found an activity that can improve mild cognitive impairment (which can lead to dementia). Physical fitness may be a very valuable tool in preventing or reversing cognitive decline.

“For patients 55 and older it’s been proven that improvement in cognitive function is related to a person’s muscle strength gains. The stronger a person became-the greater benefit for their brain.” A study demonstrated that maximum brain benefit was found in patients who performed resistance training 2x a week for an average of 90 minutes. These benefits persisted even 12 months after the exercise sessions ended.

“The researchers found that resistance exercises led to structural brain plasticity, specifically, a thickening of grey matter in the ‘posterior cingulate’ cortex, a key integrating part of the brain that is affected early in Alzheimer’s disease.”

“Abnormalities in this region are involved in neurological and psychiatric disorders including Alzheimer’s, schizophrenia, depression, as well as ageing. It has been consistently shown that abnormal posterior cingulate cortex function following traumatic brain injury, predicts attentional impairments.”

This study provides a unique solution that is simple and effective. It is also an elegant example of how the brain and body are not separate systems but intimately connected in the health of the patient.

 

The Study of Mental Activity and Resistance Training by the National Health and Medical Research Council of Australia Dementia Research Grant, Project Grant ID No. 512672 from 2008 to 2011

Mavros Y et al. Mediation of Cognitive Function Improvements by Strength Gains After Resistance Training in Older Adults with Mild Cognitive Impairment: Outcomes of the Study of Mental and Resistance Training. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, October 24 2016

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