Even More on the Exercise/Brain Connection

Brain

I have written several posts about the role that exercise plays not only in our muscular and cardiovascular systems, but also on our brains.

A new article at http://www.inverse.com, and on-line journal, discusses some effects upon which I have not touched in the past. Here is the link: https://www.inverse.com/mind-body/exercise-the-brain-3-ways-physical-activity-changes-its-structure/amp.

The author, Aine Kelly, discusses three ways that regular exercise can impact our brains.

  1. It can help our memory. Exercise prevents loss of brain volume which leads to lower cognitive function; even better news is that exercise can actually increase brain volume. Especially affected is the Hippocampus which is necessary for learning and memory.
  2. Regular exercise improves blood vessel health. Healthier blood vessels means that more blood makes it to the brain. Not only can exercise maintain blood vessels, but it has also been shown to help grow new ones. On a related note, exercise helps control blood pressure which is a risk factor for dementia.
  3. Here is the really new stuff! We all have immune cells in the brain whose main function is to scan the brain for potential threats from microbes, or dying or damaged cells; these cells–called microglia–also clear away any damage they encounter. As we get older, microglia do not do their jobs quite as well, which can lead to inflammation in the brain, which in turn can impair our cognitive abilities. The latest research shows that exercise boosts the efficiency of microglia and prevents inflammation.

More research is needed to determine exactly what exercises will help the most, but it seems that the current recommendations of 150 minutes of moderate exercise (as a base-line) each week is still the ideal.

Kelly’s article adds to the growing body that should encourage us as we grow older. We are living longer and longer. If we exercise regularly, we can help to ensure that not only our bodies remain in good shape, but our minds as well!

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