Whilst there are numerous reasons why one should exercise; did you know that it has more than physical benefits like the ability to change the way our brain works! So we have talked previously about the concept of Neuroplasticity (If this is new to you check out Mind Hacking Happiness with Sean Webb) so we know the brain can adapt and change to new skills and ways of thinking, but what about the way in which it PROTECTS our brain and thinking skills?
Let’s first take a look at the brain anatomy…
The hippocampus is made up of hundreds of brain cells, which can be affected just as any other cells in the body.
Now we often think about our physical health and how things like being overweight, leading a stressful life can lead to the development of insulin resistance and type II diabetes which damage cells.
BUT did you know?
High levels of inflammation in the body have a direct impact on brain cells, the development of new blood vessels that serve brain cells and their ability to survive.
Another important point to mention is the effect exercise has on the SIZE and VOLUME of brain cells. This means exercising can actually increase not on the quality but the number of brain cells that you have.
One of the key signs in the development of Alzheimer’s Disease is Hippocampal atrophy (decrease in the size of the hippocampus) so the ability to increase its size forms a preventative measure against memory decline
White & Grey Matter
White matter forms the pathway that connects different areas of grey matter together. It has electrically insulating myelin sheaths that transmit signals to other neurons at an increasingly fast speed. Different regions of the brain rely on this fast transmission process between white and grey matter to carry out everyday tasks. In individuals with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia, plaques impair the electrical signals and they are not able to pass between cells. This forms tangles which kill brain cells as they no longer receive the food and energy they need.
Usually, the outer surface of the brain is affected first in those with Alzheimer’s. And the first signs being changes short-term memory.
So can exercise prevent memory loss?
Possibly. A recent paper published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease looked at the quality of white matter in individuals who had a high level of cardiovascular fitness. They found that these individuals had better quality white matter and stronger brain function.
They also looked at 2 crucial elements in the link between exercise and Alzheimer’s
- How fit do you need to be to significantly reduce your risk
- What difference will it make if you start exercising when symptoms begin to appear?
Further investigation is needed to determine exact doses. But it seems regular moderate to high-intensity activity can help decrease atrophy of this grey matter; keeping brain cells healthy and electrical signals firing.
If you have a family member who you think may be suffering the early stages of Alzheimer’s, or you yourself are worried head to Alzheimer’s Australia https://www.alz.org/au/dementia-alzheimers-australia.asp