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New Insight: Exercise and Brain Health

Physical activity offers cognitive benefits later in life.

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Older men exercising for brain health

Active older adults seem to have healthier, fitter brains than those who don’t exercise, per findings reported in Alzheimer’s & Dementia (2022; doi:10.1002/alz.12530), the journal of the Alzheimer’s Association. University of California, San Francisco, and University of British Columbia investigators examined the brain tissue from 404 deceased older adults. They also analyzed activity data prior to death. They found that the individuals who were more active had higher brain levels of proteins that promote healthy synaptic functioning. Synapses are the transmission point between neurons; healthy synapses improve cognitive function and may support other aspects of brain health.

“It may be that physical activity exerts a global sustaining effect, supporting and stimulating healthy function of proteins that facilitate synaptic transmission throughout the brain,” said senior study author William Honer, MD, Department of Psychiatry, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia. These findings may help experts understand the mechanisms behind why exercise benefits brain health, particularly for older adults.

See also: Food Combinations May Affect Brain Health

Shirley Archer-Eichenberger, JD, MA

Shirley Archer, JD, MA, is an internationally acknowledged integrative health and mindfulness specialist, best-selling author of 16 fitness and wellness books translated into multiple languages and sold worldwide, award-winning health journalist, contributing editor to Fitness Journal, media spokesperson, and IDEA's 2008 Fitness Instructor of the Year. She's a 25-year industry veteran and former health and fitness educator at the Stanford Prevention Research Center, who has served on multiple industry committees and co-authored trade books and manuals for ACE, ACSM and YMCA of the USA. She has appeared on TV worldwide and was a featured trainer on America's Next Top Model.

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November-December 2020 IDEA Fitness Journal

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