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The Benefit of Exercise in Preserving Brain Function and Memory

With Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia already affecting more than 5 million senior adults in the U.S., the need for interventions that promote brain health has never been greater.

The good news, according to the Alzheimer’s Association®, is that there is growing evidence that shows that older Americans can maintain brain function and memory by adopting healthy lifestyle habits. And one of the easiest and most effective of these lifestyle habits is exercise.

Says Crystal Yost, PCHA, PCH, Administrator at Impressions Memory Care at Bryn Mawr located in Bryn Mawr, PA, “Participating in regular cardiovascular exercise that increases your blood flow and heart rate, such as a daily walk, is highly beneficial to your brain health. In fact, various research studies have found a direct link between exercise, healthy brain function and a reduced risk of cognitive decline.

“In short, exercise strengthens your mind and body.”

How Exercise Boosts Brain Health and Memory

As explained in the Harvard Health article,“Regular exercise changes the brain to improve memory, thinking skills,” “In a study done at the University of British Columbia, researchers found that regular aerobic exercise, the kind that gets your heart and your sweat glands pumping, appears to boost the size of the hippocampus, the brain area involved in verbal memory and learning.

“Exercise helps memory and thinking through both direct and indirect means. The benefits of exercise come directly from its ability to reduce insulin resistance, reduce inflammation, and stimulate the release of growth factors –chemicals in the brain that affect the health of brain cells, the growth of new blood vessels in the brain, and even the abundance and survival of new brain cells.

“Indirectly, exercise improves mood and sleep, and reduces stress and anxiety. Problems in these areas frequently cause or contribute to cognitive impairment.

“Many studies have suggested that the parts of the brain that control thinking and memory (the prefrontal cortex and medial temporal lobe) have greater volume in people who exercise versus people who don’t.”

Commenting on this important finding, Dr. Scott McGinnis,a neurologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and an instructor of neurology at Harvard Medical School, states, “Even more exciting is the finding that engaging in a program of regular exercise of moderate intensity over six months or a year is associated with an increase in the volume of selected brain regions.”

In addition to improving overall brain health, exercise also lowers blood pressure, improves cholesterol levels, helps blood sugar balance and reduces mental stress, all of which can help your brain as well as your heart.

How Much Exercise Do You Need to Preserve Your Brain?

Dr. McGinnis adds that although most studies have focused on the benefits of walking, it’s likely that other forms of aerobic exercise that get your heart pumping might yield similar benefits.

As for how much exercise is needed to improve brain function and memory,the standard guidelines recommend half an hour of moderate physical activity at least five days a week, or 150 minutes a week. However, if you need to start slowly, you can begin with a few minutes of exercise a day, and gradually increase your workout by five or 10 minutes daily until you reach your desired level.

Get Started Today!

Crystal adds, “The hardest part of an exercise program can be just getting started. However, by making a daily walk part of your routine, you’ll enjoy major gains with little or no pain. In addition to the long-term advantages of a healthier brain and improved memory, exercise can also help you to control your weight, lower your blood pressure and cholesterol, strengthen your heart and lower your stress level.”

We encourage you to contact uswith any questions you have about our exceptional, person-centered dementia care community or to schedule a tour. Also, we invite you to read our timely blog articles on current caregiver and dementia care topics posted on our website.

We Would Love to Hear from You!

If you have comments or questions about our blog, “The Benefit of Exercise in Preserving Brain Function and Memory,” we’d love to hear from you. We also encourage you to share any of your caregiving experiences in our comments section.

Engaging Days. Meaningful Moments.

Loved ones with Alzheimer’s disease or other memory impairments require specialized care and support. They also deserve a lifestyle rich in dignity and fulfillment. Impressions Memory Care at Bryn Mawr provides residents with Engaging Days and Meaningful Moments that emphasize individual abilities, encouragesocializationand promote the highest level of independence possible. We offer a complete continuum of leading-edgeprograms, services and amenitiesthat address the total physical, emotional and social needs of residents in a caring setting that offersindividual suiteswith large private baths and the comfort of home. Our memory care community touches hearts and changes lives.

Helping Families Be “Family” Again

Memory loss caused by Alzheimer’s disease, dementia or another form of memory impairment doesn’t only affect the person who has it – it affects the entire family.

If you have a loved one with early- to mid-stage memory loss, you know how challenging it can be to provide the care that’s needed while trying to maintain balance in your life. Ascare needs increase, you may not be able to meet them physically or emotionally. It’s often difficult to be available to care for your loved one’s health and well-being around the clock.

If and when the time comes to seek additional help, place your trust in Impressions Memory Care at Bryn Mawr. We lift the stresses and worries of being a caregiver from your shoulders, enabling you and your family to enjoy time with your loved one again.

For more information, please call Crystal at 484.386.6323 or contact us online.

Disclaimer: The articles and tip sheets on this website are offered by Impressions Memory Care at Bryn Mawr and Main Line Senior Care Alliance for general informational and educational purposes and do not constitute legal or medical advice. For legal or medical advice, please contact your attorney or physician.