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Exercising for Better Brain Health

Exercising for Better Brain HealthThere is an increasing body of scientific literature which shows that exercising is not only good for your physical fitness, but also for your mental health as well. A recent review published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine shows this effect in the 50+ year old population in particular. The results were seen in groups which had a previous cognitive decline in their medical histories as well as those who were healthy with no mental notes in their medical history. In total, the review looked at 39 different studies published over the last 25 years and looked at the impact of moderate or high-intensity exercise done over a 45 to 60-minute period.

The review hypothesizes that the reason for this benefit may be due to increased blood vessel and brain cell density which comes with exercise in certain parts of the brain. This would make sense from a physiological standpoint and is perhaps explained by the increased blood flow attributed to exercise including blood flowing to the head and brain. However, no conclusions can be made on the physiological impact that exercise has without further study specifically looking at that.

It is important to critically evaluate the review as well as the studies included in it before coming to any conclusions as there are different methodologies, each with its own ups and downs. Furthermore, some of the control groups displayed changes in their mental health as well, suggesting potential impact from extraneous variables too. This study is really good from a hypothesis-generation standpoint, however, and may lead to more conclusive support in the future.

Based on the review, and if the findings hold true, there are several tips that may eventually be of benefit for patients to follow. One is to opt for aerobic exercise which can not only help the brain but also the heart- the latter which has a strong body of evidence behind it. Aerobic exercise includes things like running, walking, and swimming. Incorporating any of these activities into your schedule in a regimented and regular way can have a very big positive impact on your health. In addition, doing some resistance-based exercise can help too. Tai chi may be a gentler option for someone looking for a more meditative experience. This may have other positive mental effects too and help reduce stress, etc. It is also great for people who may not be able to do very strenuous exercises due to other conditions or limitations. Finally, combining exercises is the best option if possible as you are likely to get something different from each type of exercise. Again, this should be catered to your personal goals as well as medical limitations. Consulting your doctor on a new workout plan is the best route if you have that option.

Exercising can have many health benefits from improving your cognitive function to cardiovascular benefit to potentially even increasing strength and reducing the risk of accidental injuries. Try to find something you like and stick with it and you are bound to see some sort of results.

Picture Credit: janeb13

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