What really keeps people from going senile?
Those suffering from Alzheimer’s disease experience a greater-than-normal decrease in the size of the hippocampus, which contributes to the difficulty in recalling newer memories while older ones remain intact.
Studies indicate that regular aerobic exercise has been shown not only to slow age-related shrinking of the hippocampus but remarkably it can also reverse some of the wastings that have already occurred. A year-long, three-days-a-week walking program recovered as much as two years’ worth of volume previously lost in healthy, but sedentary, seniors.
Similar results were found in a study of women who were already experiencing mild memory loss. Assigned to one of three exercise groups — aerobic conditioning, weight training or stretching and toning — women in their seventies and eighties exercised twice a week for six months.
The idea was to see whether working out in the weight room or performing a basic stretching program was as effective at improving brain health as aerobic exercises like walking, swimming or cycling.
Turns out that increases in brain volume among the aerobic exercisers were at par with that found in other studies using a similar exercise component.
The same can’t be said for those who worked out in the weight room or performed basic balance and stretching exercises. To benefit from improved brain health, older men and women need a sustained boost in heart rate similar to what occurs while walking, swimming, cycling and running.
As the president’s push for brain research heats up, more and more information is coming to the table from even unrelated sources answering the same call. In so many ways, it’s high time. As the threat of other major killers is being pushed back by modern medicine, it’s diseases of the brain that start to pose the greatest threat.
Interestingly though, that research is pushing back on the popular idea that simple brain exercise is needed to prevent the loss of the ability to think and recall. Obviously, the brain still is given to us under the firm heading of, “Use it or lose it,” but KEEPING it to use is repeatedly being found to have little to do with the use of the brain — and everything to do with the use of the body.
Now, we know exactly what use of the body matters. While aggressive resistance training is an absolute essential for general health and cardio really does little for the human body beyond a very limited point, it turns out that cardio is critical for the maintenance of the brain.
And, for reversing the loss of the brain once it has already happened…