If so, or if you want to avoid them as long as possible, lace up your sneakers and get moving.
According to two recent studies, there is a definite link between good physical fitness and delayed brain aging.
In one of the studies, done at the University of Arizona, the researchers studied 58 men and 65 women between 50 and 89 years old and matched their patterns of neural activation against their performance on treadmill tests.
According to psychologist Gene Alexander, who led the study team, “Better brain aging is associated with better physical fitness.”
This study is consistent with a growing body of research showing that regular aerobic exercise can help stave off the mild cognitive failings of normal aging and can spur the growth of new neurons in the area of the brain associated with memory and learning (the hippocampus).
One such research study was done at the Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas and it consisted of comparing the brain structure and function in 10 athletes and 10 sedentary people.
The investigators found that the brain’s white matter fiber was better preserved among the athletes than the inactive people.
What’s white matter, and why is it important?
In the human brain, white matter plays the critical role of transmitting messages between different regions of gray matter — areas where functions such as seeing, hearing, speaking, memory and emotions take place.
So, without sufficient white matter, gray matter can’t do its job (as is the case for many people with various forms of dementia).
“Without properly functioning white matter, people can begin to show signs of neurological problems,” said Dr. Benjamin Levine, one of the Texas researchers. “They can lose the ability to do simple daily tasks that we take for granted.”
One of the conclusions of the Texas study, according to Dr. Levine, is that long-term aerobic exercise has definitive, measurable impact on brain health.
In short, we can fight off dementia and some of the other classic signs of aging with a purposeful, consistent exercise regimen.
That, my friends, is the take-away.
A consistent aerobic exercise regimen benefits your brain as well as your heart. It’s a health two-fer.
Medical disclaimer: I am not a physician and I have never played one on television. I haven’t even stayed at a Holiday Inn Express. Therefore, always consult with your real doctor before starting or altering your exercise program, especially if you have existing medical conditions.