What long-term effects result from regular exercise that can make a positive difference in the health of your brain?
Brain health: Our bodies crave movement
Brain health and the benefits of exercise have become an important topic for those interested in preventing Alzheimer’s dementia. Increasing my physical training was the first change I made after deciding to improve my health.
I began by taking short walks, which wore me out horribly, but my body soon adjusted, and I began to crave movement. Now it is a normal part of my life, and I hope to convince you to make it part of your everyday life as well. You’ll be amazed at how much better you will feel.
But please, this is very important: Before making any changes to your exercise routines, check with your doctor.
Perhaps the most significant benefit of exercise you’ll see is better circulation. Exercise strengthens your heart, enabling it to pump more blood to your body. In the brain, blood is the source of nutrients and oxygen, so getting too little blood eventually adds up to big problems. Exercise delivers a healthy feast to your brain, making it very happy, and promoting better brain health.
Brain health: How does your brain benefit from physical exercise
Exercise can decrease chronic inflammation
Exercise done correctly can decrease chronic inflammation because it strengthens your body’s immune response, making it more able to defeat whatever causes chronic inflammation in the first place.
During exercise, for example, your body releases a protein called IL-6 that lowers levels of inflammatory proteins and inhibits a protein that triggers inflammation.
Just 20-30 minutes of moderate exercise, like brisk walking, will trigger this anti-inflammatory cellular response. If you move this much, you are likely to live longer, and if you don’t, you are likely to die younger. Plain and simple.
So let’s get moving!
But wait! Doesn’t exercise cause inflammation? Lift weights one day, take a vigorous walk, climb stairs, and the next day you’re sore.
The pain you’re feeling is acute inflammation. It results from the tiny tears that exercise causes in your muscles. It is not chronic inflammation where your immune system is over-reacting and causing damage to healthy cells. To address this acute inflammation, take a day off after strenuous exercise. As you rest, your body will repair the tears, making the muscles stronger.
Ultimately, chronic inflammation throughout your body will decrease.
Exercise supports the production of BDNF in the brain to aid in cell recovery
For many years, we accepted that there was no coming back from the cellular loss that results from brain trauma, toxins, and other sources of neuroinflammation. Once gone, we lose these cells forever. This belief is simply untrue.
We now realize that our neurons have unlimited potential for recovery, repair, and regeneration thanks to a protein in your brain called a brain-derived neurotrophic factor. BDNF has the power to replace lost neurons with new ones and heal damaged cells. Think of BDNF as “Miracle-Gro” for the brain.
Many have associated low levels of BDNF with Alzheimer’s disease, depression, memory loss, and other cognitive problems. As such, an increase in your BDNF is an excellent way to reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
What can you do to increase BDNF in your brain? Exercise, especially aerobic exercise or high-intensity interval workouts, has proven effective.
Exercise can increase Klotho support brain functions
Klotho is another essential protein that increases with regular exercise. According to Dena Dubal, klotho “acts to make tighter, better connections at the synapse,” which helps to optimize many functions of the brain.
Because klotho can have a significant effect on IQ, memory, and muscle regeneration, it has become known for its anti-aging properties. Research on klotho is just beginning, but scientists now believe it’s useful to improve health. Injecting a piece of klotho hormone into the bodies of mice improves their ability to learn and remember.
But don’t expect to be able to take a pill to increase your klotho anytime soon. The research is too new. For now, the best way we know to increase klotho is regular aerobic exercise sustained over 12 weeks.
Exercise will improve your overall physical health
Movement and exercise are among the very best—and cheapest—ways we can improve our overall health. If you make exercise a routine part of your life, your brain will benefit in many incredible ways, and so will the rest of your body.
Specific types of exercise and tips for your exercise plan will prove helpful in your efforts to improve your health. This information is available in my book, The Dementia Action Plan: How to Give Your Brain a Fighting Chance (click here to order). Also, we’ve produced an excellent video titled, Exercise and Dementia, which we encourage you to share with others. You may want to check out some of the other videos offered by Interact Well Care.