An article by exercise physiologist, Jennifer Smallridge
As modern medicine ensures that we can live longer than ever before, we need to be mindful of our brains.
Although there are many reasons to exercise, have you thought about it as an investment in your future brain function? Features such as memory, planning and emotions can all be protected through exercise. You might like to think of exercise as a broom that sweeps out all the unwanted inflammation and build-up around the brain.
Research from Deakin University has pointed out that across the different stages of the lifespan, moving regularly protects and nourishes the brain in many different ways:
- Childhood physical activity optimises the brain during a rapid period of development, and in this study, resulted in enlarged parts of the brain responsible for attention and memory.
- Adolescents should also keep moving: being active in the teenage years was shown to be the strongest protective factor against cognitive impairment at age 71.
- From adulthood and beyond, exercise then becomes vital in lowering the risk of dementia, and staving off chronic conditions like diabetes and cardiovascular disease, as they also threaten the delicate blood vessels of the brain.
So how much should we be doing? If you’re not currently active, starting anywhere is going to be of great benefit, as well as reducing your sitting time. If you are already exercising, trying to meet (and then exceed) the National Physical Activity Guidelines of 30 minutes of physical activity, most days of the week will protect you from many chronic diseases at once.
The good news is, it’s never too late to start! The research showed that 70 to 80 year olds who accumulated 150 minutes of physical activity per week had a 40% lower risk of dementia. That could be as simple as going for a brisk half-hour walk, 5 days of the week.
For expert guidance and support getting active, an Accredited Exercise Physiologist can help. They are health professionals who specialise in exercise prescription for different health conditions and phases of the lifespan, and can help to create a plan that works for you.
Macpherson, H., Teo, W.P., Schneider, L.A. and Smith, A.E., 2017. A life-long approach to physical activity for brain health. Frontiers in aging neuroscience, 9.