The Surprising Brain Benefits of Exercise for Seniors

Exercise and Brain HealthDoing the daily crossword puzzle to stave off those “senior moments” when the right word is just out of reach? That’s good, but a recent study published in Scientific Reports indicates that taking a brisk walk can help just as much.

The study confirmed what we all know — that as we get older, we have more “tip-of-the-tongue moments” than younger people, and that older people are also less likely to eventually retrieve that out-of-reach word than are younger people. That’s not surprising.

What is surprising is that one of the best ways to reduce the probability of tip-of-the-tongue moments is to increase the older adult’s aerobic fitness.

The study describes many of the changes aerobic exercise produces in the brain’s function and structure.
1. Blood flow to the brain is improved, which increases the effectiveness of the brain’s ability to respond to carbon dioxide, a vital aspect of optimal brain function. Both cerebral blood flow and reactivity to carbon dioxide decrease with age, but the brain of an older person who is physically fit shows much less decline.

2. Age-related decrease in gray matter, particularly in the frontal lobe and hippocampus, is lower in those who are physically fit. These two areas of the brain are associated with cognitive control and memory, respectively. Aerobic exercise has actually been shown to increase gray matter volume in the hippocampus.

3. Nerve activation, the speed at which the brain processes information, increases with aerobic fitness. This improves the speed at which an older person can complete a task,
and also improves their attention.

The study suggests that aerobic training similarly improves language abilities. Just a moderate amount of aerobic exercise — as little as a 30-minute walk most days of the week — provides numerous benefits, both physically and cognitively.

So, finish up that crossword, and take a good walk!

Atlantic Coast Healthcare and Rehabilitation Center, in Lakewood, NJ, offers the benefits
of exercise, as well as other activities that improve the health and quality of life of our seniors. In addition, we provide a broad menu of healthful, enjoyable activities, delicious food tailored to our residents’ needs and tastes, and are located on beautifully landscaped grounds, all to make sure that our residents are in their best possible health during their golden years. Call us at 732-364-7100, or by clicking here.

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