Researchers have figured out how physical exercise prevents dementia and protects the brain

Gerontologists and sports physicians at Goethe University Frankfurt in Germany have concluded in a new study that not only does regular physical exercise manage weight and maintain the body’s fitness, it also protects the brain and positively impacts its metabolismThe study, which involved 60 participants aged between 65 and 85, aimed to assess movement-related parameters, cognitive performance, and cardiopulmonary fitness. Half of the participants took part in stationary bike exercises as part of a 12-week program, half of them did not.

The training sessions, which lasted for 30 minutes, three times a week, for each participant in the training group, were calibrated in such a way as to adapt to each participant’s performance level. The participants were examined after these sessions so that the researchers could take note of the effects physical activity had on cognitive performance, brain metabolism, and brain structure. Researchers used magnetic resonance tomography (MRT) and magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS) to do so.

The results of the tests were what the researchers had expected: Physical activity directly affected brain metabolism by hindering the increase of choline levels. In the training group, researchers found out that physical exercise resulted in stable cerebral choline concentrations, while in the control group, choline levels increased. Higher levels of choline in the body can lead to an increased loss of nerve cells, which is what happens when someone gets afflicted with Alzheimer’s disease.

After the training sessions, the participants in the training group had their cardiac efficiency improved, leading to the conclusion that physical exercise is not only good for the body, but for the mind as well.

The study, titled Sport and Metabolism in Older Persons, was published in the journal Translational PsychiatryThe Gerontology Department of the Institute of General Medicine, which was spearheaded by Professor Johannes Pantel, and the Department of Sports Medicine, which was chaired by Professor Winfried Banzer, conducted the study.

Factors as to why people develop memory problems

According to a study that was published in the British journal Lancet on Thursday, July 20 by researchers who were led by University College of London psychiatry professor Gill Livingston, among the factors that contribute to cognitive decline include not getting enough education when they were young, being prone to high blood pressure and obesity in middle age, and being sedentary and leading a solitary life during the senior years.

The number of people with dementia is increasing due to the ageing population with the welcome reduction in premature morbidity. This is happening in all countries,” Livingston said. We should think about prevention in childhood and consider education and lay the grounds for a brain-healthy lifestyle. [Also], we think weight and other such factors work mainly by decreasing blood flow to the brain and increasing insulin resistance so the brain is bathed in excess sugar. [Finally], it is biologically plausible that depression creates dementia risk because it affects stress hormones, neuronal growth factors, and hippocampal volume.” 

Other studies show that people with hearing problems are also prone to experiencing memory problems because they tend to be socially isolated and therefore depressed and uncommunicative; or since they have to manage the difficulty of trying to understand garbled sounds in every day life, they sacrifice other thinking skills.

Fortunately, changing your lifestyle may stave off the onset of such issues. The United States National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine reported in June that keeping a low blood pressure, having proper exercise routines, and engaging in regular forms of brain activity can lead to less risks of developing Alzheimer’s disease. (Related: Five things you can do to guard against Alzheimers.)

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