#40: Staying Sane

Yet another good reason to exercise.

Oh, the sad horror of losing your mind. I’m constantly doing that now, but I’m able to find it again, usually minutes later. What this is really about, though, is dementia, and boy, will I ever do whatever it takes to keep that demon away.

Thankfully, there is tons of research being done right now to help us learn ways to keep our brains young, active, and sane. So now not only can we say that exercise helps reverse or relieve age-related body changes such as sarcopenia (the loss of muscle), symptoms of menopause, and osteoporosis, it also decreases the risk of dementia. Even more, higher levels of exercise might correlate with even lower risk of dementia. Awesome.

The research keeps growing: it’s becoming common knowledge that learning new things stimulates new neural pathways to develop in your brain. It can be simple things, like brushing your teeth with your opposite hand, that fire those neurons, but the brain is more challenged by functions that make it use its planning, memory, and organizational skills. So when you try new exercise classes or routines, your brain thanks you very much.

An article in The New York Times claims that people who get regular exercise in middle age are one-third as likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease in their seventies as those who do not exercise. That’s significant! Even people who don’t start exercising until late in life cut their risk substantially. Exercise is associated with actual physical changes in the brain, like increased blood flow in the three major cerebral arteries and new cell growth.

And hear this: though exercise at any age has a positive effect on brain function, it is especially beneficial when aerobics and strength training are combined. If you work out with me, you know that all the balancing acts you do are terrific for your core, but now you also know they put your brain to work, too. There are indeed methods to all my madness.

As if you needed one more reason to get off your duff. And yet, there it is!

(Thanks, Sean Foy, for sharing much of that research.)