Just Another Reason Exercise is Great for You!

By Alison McMillan, Wellness Manager

Scientists have been hard at work researching exercise, knowing that brain health is a top concern among older adults. We’ve seen studies that show that exercise reduces the risk of developing
Alzheimer’s. Imaging studies have shown that the hippocampus (the area of the brain that stores long term memories) is greater in volume in adults aged 59 to 81 who are more aerobically active than those who are not. Those same adults also showed better performance in memory tasks. Lastly, studies have shown exercise can lead to improved learning, attention, and memory for patients with early-stage Alzheimer’s, Schizophrenia, or brain injuries. Overall, studies indicate that exercise is beneficial for
brain health.

But how?

Researchers are studying hormonal and chemical changes in exercising mice, and have seen an increase in a chemical called Irisin, which is produced by muscles during exercise. This chemical was
found to boost protein levels in the hippocampus that promotes neuron growth and health in the brain. Irisin also was found to decrease the inflammation in the brain that causes Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. Knowing this, scientists are confident that the effect is similar in humans because the Irisin composition is identical in mice and humans. Studies already show that post exercise, there is a boost of Irisin levels in humans. In examinations of Alzheimer’s patients, Irisin’s precursor protein was 70% less than in patients without Alzheimer’s. This leads scientists to believe that Irisin is linked as protective to the neurons.

So, to summarize, exercise is great for brain health by helping new neurons and connections grow and be healthy and helps reduce risk for Alzheimer’s. All the more reason to go outside, or head to the gym for an exercise class or to use the machines every day!

Source: National Geographic “New clues are revealing why exercise can keep the brain healthy” June 2022

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