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Understanding the Link Between Exercise and Brain Health

Understanding the Link Between Exercise and Brain Health

Witnessing a family member suffering from cancer, Alzheimer’s, or another potentially life-limiting disease can be devastating. You might feel frustrated and helpless that there is nothing you can do to help. It may also leave you anxious and uncertain about your own health. This is especially true for a condition like Alzheimer’s, where so much about the disease remains unknown.

While the research exploring genetic links that increase the risk for Alzheimer’s is inconclusive, some lifestyle choices are believed to play a role. One is regular exercise. Researchers believe daily exercise lowers stress and decreases the chance for heart disease and diabetes. Both diseases are thought to contribute to Alzheimer’s.

Exercise and Brain Health

A study published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease investigated the potential links between brain health and Alzheimer’s. They recruited participants who were 78 years old on average and living a sedentary lifestyle. Researchers divided the participants into two groups:

  • Older adults who appeared healthy
  • Older adults known to have a mild cognitive impairment

Over the 12-week trial and under the supervision of a personal trainer, participants exercised on a treadmill. When the 12 weeks were over, both groups showed improvement in cardiovascular fitness, memory performance, and neural efficiency. Researchers surmised exercise likely plays a key role in maintaining and possibly improving brain function and memory recall, even for those who have mild cognitive impairment.

Family Fitness: Ideas for Seniors and Caregivers

One encouraging finding that emerged from this study was even a little exercise makes a difference. Participants only engaged in a modest amount, walking on a treadmill at a moderate pace for 30 minutes 5 times a week. A moderate pace was considered to be a speed that raises the heart rate while allowing the participant to carry on a conversation.

If you are looking for fitness activities you can do alone or with others, we have some suggestions. Two sites that have free online resources are:

  • National Institute on Aging: The Exercise and Physical Activity page on their website has a variety of resources and articles you will find useful. They also have a Go4Life Exercise Video channel on YouTube you can follow.
  • Growing Stronger: Established by Tufts University and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, this program also has a range of information and tools. You can even download their 126-page guide for free.

Other suggestions include walking, Tai Chi, Pilates, yoga, recumbent biking, and low-impact aerobics. If you’ve been living a fairly sedentary life or haven’t exercised recently, it’s a good idea to check in with your doctor. They can recommend types and duration of exercise you should engage in.

Wellness Is a Priority at Five Star Senior Living

At Five Star Senior Living communities, our residents benefit from a unique, holistic approach to wellness. Through our Lifestyle360 program, they have an opportunity to engage in activities that nurture the physical dimension of wellness. From morning stretches to strength training and Zumba, there is an activity that meets every interest and ability. Call (853) 457-8271 today to learn more!


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