The benefits of physical exercise for decreasing mortality and morbidity and improving physical function are well-established. Many studies now also support the link between the practice of regular exercise and cognitive brain health in older adults.
Regular physical exercise is strongly connected to the maintenance of cognitive brain health.1
Good brain health is a key factor in maintaining independence in the elderly, and is the top health-related concern amongst many older adults.2
An opportunity therefore exists for health professionals to prescribe regular exercise as a “medicine” to promote healthy cognitive aging.3
A systematic review and meta-analysis of lifestyle factors (e.g. smoking, alcohol, caffeine, nutrition, physical activity) and cognitive function found that physical activity was one of the strongest predictors of reduced risk for Alzheimer’s disease.4
The neurobiological foundations for cognitive improvements brought about by exercise include the ability to: counteract age-related atrophy of grey and white matter in the brain5-7; increase the blood supply, dendritic spine density and complexity of the hippocampus; enhance synaptic plasticity8; and increase the release of neurotrophins and trophic factors that enhance neuronal growth and survival.9-11
Cerebral blood flow
These trophic factors work together to support the development of neurons and stimulate blood vessel growth to nurture the creation and preservation of neurons and neuronal function.24
Since exercise changes the brain in ways that protect memory and thinking skills, it is recommended that people from all ages regularly engage in physical activity. 27
Physical activity is important, but it is also important to minimise the risk of injury or other issues by doing it safely
Follow the recommended guidelines for physical activity:
To prevent cognitive decline and keep the brain sharp for as long as possible, regular exercise is one of the top lifestyle factors that have been shown to improve cognitive abilities. People from all age groups should participate in a well-rounded, regular exercise program that suits their preferences, fitness level and medical condition.