Neuroscientists, psychologists, and physicians agree equivocally that exercise is the best thing you can do for your brain. ‘The latest research shows the cognitive decline is not inevitable,’ says Laura L. Cartensen, Director of the Stanford Center on Longevity, and author of A Long Bright Future. Yes, brain volume shrinks slightly. But the brain continues to make neurons and fine tune neural connections as long as we live.
Aerobic exercise jump-starts that process. ‘It reduces the level of brain loss and keeps cognitive ability sharp,’ says John Medina, Affiliate Professor of Bioengineering at the University of Washington School of Medicine, and author of Brain Rules. ‘It also slashes your life risk of Alzheimer’s in half and your risk of general dementia by 60 percent.’ How is this possible? Exercise boosts the flow of blood to the brain, spurring the release of what’s been dubbed Miracle-Gro for the brain — brain-derived neurotropic factor (BDNF). This chemical stimulates the formation of new neurons in the hippocampus, the area involved in memory, learning, and the ability to plan and make decisions. BDNF also repairs cell damage and strengthens synapses which connect brain cells.
A number of studies show that everyone — young or old, healthy or not — can pump up their brain power by exercising regularly. In one large study at the Cooper Institute in Dallas, researchers tracked 19,458 physically fit adults for 24 years. Those who were most fit at midlife had a substantially lower risk of developing dementia than those who were not physically active. (adapted from an article by Margery Rosen, AARP)
Massage Therapy Center Palo Alto suggests that in addition to regular exercise, you get regular bodywork to support healthy aging. Therapeutic massage will help:
- Increase blood circulation, which brings nutrients and oxygen to your cells, and carries away cellular waste
- Increase lymph circulation to support your immune response
- Reduce breathing pattern disorders to increase life-sustaining oxygenation
- Reduce stress, inflammation, and energy blocks to prevent disease
- Calm your nervous system to support relaxation, balance, and healing
- Improve exercise performance and recovery, and help prevent injuries