EXERCISE AND THE BRAIN By Stephanie Dyess, Director of Fitness, Tradition Senior Living
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February 20, 2018
Stephanie Dyess, the Director of Fitness for Tradition Senior Living.

New evidence continues to evolve confirming the multiple benefits of exercise! Not only does exercise promote healthy weight loss, it also makes us feel and look good, notably boosting confidence and self-esteem. A regular workout regimen helps prevent heart disease, obesity, and osteoporosis. It also results in added strength, flexibility, and pain relief.

What very few realize however, is that regular exercise also benefits the brain! Studies have shown enhanced cognition, memory, and overall brain function due to regular physical activity. In addition, exercise improves academic performance and social skills, balances mood and behavior, and serves as a major stress reducer.

Physiologically, exercise creates the optimal environment for neural plasticity, or the ability of the brain to change through the production of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). BDNF helps preserve existing brain cells and promotes the growth of new neurons. A recent study found that physical exercise, as opposed to mental exercise, protects the brain against age-related changes.  People who engage in the most physical exercise exhibit the least amount of brain shrinkage.

Exercise does not have to be exhausting to be effective. Three-to-five hours per week has shown to be sufficient. Maintaining this routine will result in noticeable cognitive gains, a greater ability to fight dementia, and a decreased risk for stress and depression. According to one study, the odds of developing Alzheimer’s nearly quadrupled in people who were less active.

Best of all, exercise can be fun! Along with growing and protecting the brain, exercise can be an invigorating way to improve life both physically and mentally as we age. A good workout combined with a healthy diet are key to a long and happy life. See you in the gym!

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