We all know that exercise is one of the main ways to improve our health and wellbeing as we age. Exercise not only has its physical benefits to improve cardiorespiratory fitness but has shown to prevent and recover from a number of chronic conditions. There has been extensive research into physical exercise for a healthy brain. But what type of exercise will have the best effect?
The benefits of exercise come directly from its ability to decrease inflammation and release growth factors (which improve the health of brain cells and blood vessels in the brain). There has even been some new research into the intensity of exercise and preventing the onset of dementia.
At the moment, aerobic exercise has been researched more extensively in the field of brain health. With the addition of improved heart health and endurance, aerobic exercise (including walking, swimming or cycling) has also shown to foster new brain cell growth and preserve existing cells.
It is recommended that you participate in 30mins on most days of the week. A good cue to how hard you should be working is that you should be able to talk but too out of breath to sing while exercising. Research has shown that repetitive exercise can assist with improve “neuroplasticity” or “creating new neural pathways” in the brain.
There has also been some solid research is resistance training and brain health. As we know, strength training not only builds muscle and strength bones, but it can also boost brain power, enhance concentration and increase decision making skills. It is recommended that you participate in strength training 2-3 x weekly with a combination of functional muscle groups exercised.
Although there hasn’t been specific research into flexibility and balance exercises and brain health, there are a multitude of benefits if performed correctly.
Research has shown however, that performing new activities keeps the brain active to learn new things. Improved balance and flexibility have shown to make daily activities easier and develop mobility.
Exercises can include things like Tai Chi or other balance specific exercises.