Reversing age related brain shrinkage
As you get older, the size of a certain vital organ becomes more and more important — your brain. That’s because, typically, the older you get, the smaller your brain volume gets. And if this shrinkage gets too out of hand, you end up with a serious cognitive impairment like dementia. So your challenge (if you choose to accept it) is to keep your brain big. And if you succeed, you’ll be rewarded with the ability to stay independent, active and dementia-free as you age. But keeping your brain big sounds like an overwhelming task. So where do you start? Well, the first step to a bigger brain is exercise. It’s probably the most scientifically-backed way to maintain brain volume and boost cognitive health. In the past, researchers said any type of exercise will do the trick. And it’s true that any exercise you do helps. But it turns out, there is one type that’s more beneficial for your brain than others—aerobic exercise. In fact, researchers from the Wake Forest School of Medicine found that aerobic exercise does more than just prevent brain shrinkage and cognitive decline — it actually reverses it…People with mild cognitive impairment (the precursor to full-blown dementia) were able to increase their brain volume and improve their cognitive function in just six months by doing aerobic exercise a few times a week. Even over a short period of time, the researchers saw aerobic exercise lead to a remarkable change in the brain. The study included 35 participants with an average age of 67. Half of the participants did aerobic exercise four times per week for six months, while the other half did stretching exercises. Both groups had better brain volume at the end of the study, but people doing aerobic exercise ultimately came out on top…Compared to the stretching group, the aerobic activity group had greater preservation of total brain volume, increased local gray matter volume and increased directional stretch of brain tissue . They exercised on a treadmill, a stationary bike or an elliptical machine. And if you don’t have access to any fancy equipment, running, biking or hiking would work just as well. You could also try more creative aerobic activities like:
- Rock climbing.
- Power yoga.
- Ice skating.
Really, the options for good aerobic exercise are endless. Even an hour of vigorous cleaning could do the trick.
And, as an added bonus, a recent study published in the British Journal of Medicine found that aerobic activities such as swimming, racquet sports and aerobics/dance/gymnastics classes reduce your risk of dying from any cause (including heart disease and stroke) by up to 47 percent. So if you embrace aerobic exercise now, you’ll not only have a bigger brain, you’ll have a longer life.