While we commonly associate brain teasers, word games, math puzzles and riddles to be a way of keeping the ageing mind youthful, this is not the only way. In recent decades, it’s believed that an increased amount of physical exercise is proving to do just the trick.
What many folks fail to realize is that every walk or step you take, every kilometre you’re able to peddle, or every lap or moment spent swimming around the pool, you’re not only exercising and maintaining a healthy body – you’re also enhancing your cognitive health.
Over the last decade, studies have suggested that the activities you choose to do to regularly benefit your body, also inherently benefit your brain and mental function. These same studies have been conclusive in their findings that physical exercise can even aid in maintaining the brain health of those people who are at a greater risk of developing diseases like dementia and Alzheimers. So, scientists and researchers are now urging people, especially senior populations, to preserve their cognitive stability by continuing the practice of exercising. Daily exercise is very much recommended, alongside both mental and social stimulation.
Regular Exercise and Healthy Brain
Exercise is proven to increase blood flow to the brain. Due to its high metabolic demand, the brain demands good circulation, and exercise properly enables just that. An increase in blood flow is not only extremely beneficial, but it is also essential for a healthy mind. Exercise induces good blood flow to deliver all of the necessary nutrients required to carry out the brain’s daily job(s), all the while it is also increasing production molecules that are very important to brain function, including our memory.
Exercise intrinsically helps to improve our memory, which allows us to hold onto those memories that we hold dearest to our hearts, but can only seemingly remember a fraction or portion of. While keeping a journal, word puzzles and other mental strengthening activities can help maintain our memory, it is a physical exercise that genuinely helps you improve your memory’s overall capacity and strength.
Exercise is known to improve our memory by increasing molecular targets, like the brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). This molecular factor increases “synaptogenesis”, which causes the formation of new synapses that mediate learning and memory. This makes it so much easier to absorb information, form long-term memories and maintain those memories in our minds. Essentially, this means that the more brain-derived neurotrophic factors we have, the more the memory improves in function and capacity.
For those who aren’t typically motivated to work out or commit to daily physical exercise, an excellent way to motivate yourself is to consider how crucial and fundamental your memories are to your life. If you’d like to continue ageing while holding onto your memories, then exercising is a phenomenal option.
Another excellent thing that physical exercise can do to assist the ageing brain is to help reduce stress levels. Stress is proven to massively and negatively affect our ability to process information, as well as reflect upon our memories or facts. While exercising cannot solely eliminate our levels of stress, it does strongly decrease the amount of stress-related hormones in the hippocampus. This not only helps to reduce stress but also the impact that stress or a stressful experience will have on our body and mind.
This is why we will often hear people speaking about a “runner’s high”. This is essentially the effect of working out and stimulating the release of endorphins. These endorphins will react with our brain to create an almost “high” or blissful feeling of contentment. Because of this, working out has been known to decrease the effects of anxiety and depression, which can also contribute to a healthier lifestyle and ageing brain.
What Exercises Assist Ageing Brain?
The following exercises have known to be of tremendous benefit to not only our physical health but our mental health as well.
Walking and jogging have both been proven to improve your mental health, which also contributes to the brain’s proper ageing processes. This is especially true for those who can commit to a daily walk outdoors. Fresh air is proven to alleviate stress – with daily time spent outdoors, doing exercise even being proven to reduce both the effects of anxiety and depression. Factors like stress and depression negatively impact our mind, which can certainly cause the loss of memory, affect the ability to retain facts, etc. Therefore, a fresh walk, even for half an hour daily, will greatly improve our mental health and contribute to a healthier ageing process for our brain.
Water aerobics (or any form of aerobic exercise) has been proven to also assist in the proper mental ageing process and overall health of our mind. Swimming, group water aerobics and aquatic therapy have all been proven to greatly improve not only our physical condition but our mental health and standing as well. Aquatic exercises have been shown to exhibit great assistance in the improvements of an individual’s anxiety, depression, oxidative stress and overall functional autonomy. This all makes water aerobics and any water-related exercise an excellent form of management for an ageing brain.
Yoga has also been proven to assist in maintaining proper brain health and therefore, ageing. In recent decades, studies have proven and suggested that yoga not only helps to strengthen social bonds and attachments but greatly reduces stress and can relieve the effects of anxiety, depression and even insomnia.
This has much to do with the meditative aspect of yoga and the serene atmosphere that is meant to accompany it. Research has even gone on to claim that yoga and yoga-based physical treatments and conditioning can help to reduce the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder in active-duty military members and veterans alike. All of these factors can greatly affect the ageing of the brain, causing it to occur at a much faster rate. This can cause loss of memory, the ability to focus and more. Therefore, daily yoga exercise is an excellent way to assist our brain in the healthy ageing process.
For additional information on this topic, we can look over the following insightful video: