Activity for Brain Health
Recent studies have shown clearly that exercise is vital for on-going brain, and memory, health. There is no longer any doubt that walking, swimming, weight training or whatever takes your fancy has an immensely positive effect on your ageing brain.
An exciting new study in 2011 found that when 120 adults (55 to 80 year-olds) walked for 40 minutes and three days a week for a year, they expanded the size of the hippocampus deep within the brain nestled in each temporal lobe (That’s the area on each side of your head, about where your ears are!). This is exciting news as the hippocampus is absolutely vital to all memory tasks. Not only does your hippocampus file away memories, it connects them with all the other memories you already have and sends the memories off to be stored in your brain so you can access them later. It is the filing clerk for everything you want to remember. It is well worth the walking!
Even more exciting to me is a study reported in the Annals of Internal Medicine. The researchers found that ‘Older men and women who exercised even modestly three times a week or more reduced their risk of developing dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease. Seniors who did as little as 15 minutes a day of exercise three times a week reduced their risk of developing dementia by about 30%.
We are talking about the new science of the prevention of Alzheimer’s Disease here.
To function well, our brain needs large amounts of oxygen and glucose. These are provided by blood that circulates the brain. The brain uses 20% of the oxygen and 25% of the glucose your body receives, even thou it is only 2% of your body weight. As we grow older, the blood flow to the brain decreases, but Professor Byblow of the University of Auckland, reports that physical fitness from swimming, running, or walking, can make a difference of 17% of increased blood flow to the brain – the equivalent of a 10 year reduction in your age!
Isn’t it worth getting out there and walking, swimming, cycling or whatever exercise you would most enjoy?
This is all astonishing news! After the early 50s, adults lose about 1% of brain volume per year. But, good news! Now we know we can not only stop the ageing shrinkage of the brain fro
m happening but we can actually increase the size of the brain in a relatively short amount of time.
Perhaps you have heard the amazing study of London taxi drivers? As you can imagine, taxi drivers have a HUGE task learning all the possible routes in London. It is called ‘the knowledge’. University researchers took scans of new drivers before they studied ‘the knowledge’ and again afterwards. There is no doubt! The taxi drivers’ brains enlarged and adapted to help them store a detailed map of the city.
This is wonderful news for us. We are unlikely to be London taxi drivers, but by a combination of physical and mental exercise, we can definitely continue to grow and improve our own brain health and memory.
Dr. Allison Lamont is founder and memory consultant at the Auckland Memory Clinic. The clinic website is memoryclinic.co.nz. Have a look! You will find a lot of information about your memory. Allison’s ground-breaking research into memory in older, healthy adults has excited interest in many parts of the world.