Physical Exercise is Good for the Brain at Any Age

My company has changed names to Movement Academy from Learn To Move Academy.  A big part of that change is to share the ongoing scientific developments about physical exercise being important to cognitive functioning at various stages of life from young to old.  The brain is susceptible to development, and in this case development just means any change, in the adolescent stage and old age stage.  Obviously youth is in a progressive development and old age in a regressive development.  From a physical standpoint, both age ranges are also similar in balance and stability issues, so the mental similarities make sense.

Physical exercise has been found to have a positive effect on executive functions in both adolescent and aging adults (Barenberg et al., 2011; Best, 2010).  What kind of physical exercise is important?  Studies vary on whether coordination, balance, resistance, or stretching/toning.  All of them play an important role and need to be included as part of any exercise program.  Aerobic exercise is a critical factor across all levels of development (Chaddock et al., 2012; Kramer et al., 1999;
Pontifex et al., 2011), and can be accomplished in whatever manner is fun and appropriate for the individual.  As always, consult your doctor for guidelines if you are new to exercise.

In common language, what does all the scientific jargon mean?  The simple answer is start moving at your level if you are sedentary or have minimal physical activity.  Different areas of the brain light up with specific movements of the arms, legs, and torso.  Which movements do what, science is not sure yet, just that moving improves brain functions.  Scientists do know that the hippocampus is the area of the brain most positively affected by physical exercise.  The hippocampus is responsible for memory and learning functions, so using it in new ways helps your overall ability to stay focused on everyday tasks.  We all want to live longer and without assistance, so get out there and exercise your brain by exercising your body.

 

For more information on an example of a physical exercise program to improve brain function, go to the Movement Academy site and see if it is right for you.  If you have questions or comments, email Matt Peale at mpeale@ltmacademy.com

Can Exercise Improve Brain Functions?

First of all I want to make the point I am not a scientist or doctor, I am an NASM Certified Personal Trainer since 2009.  Like all blogs, they are a mixture of fact and opinion.  With that being said, scientists can attribute positive effects of physical exercise on academic performance in youth and memory skills in senior citizens.  What has not been proven yet are any specific movements, i.e. push ups, squats, plyometrics, etc., that contribute to cognitive development.

In a study by the CDC called “The Association Between School-Based Physical Activity, Including Physical Education, and Academic Performance”, it highlighted that one or more positive correlations were found in 11 of 14 studies between physical education and  indicators of cognitive skills, academic achievement, and/or academic behavior.  In a study titled “Beneficial Effects of Physical Exercise on Neuroplasticity & Cognition”, the findings point to a slower rate of memory decline in people at the age of 53 who exercised twice-a-week between the ages of 36 to 43.  Additionally, Gray matter volume was larger for those individuals who exercised compared to those that did not.

What does all that mean in plain, simple American English?  Well, it means that beyond the physical benefits of exercise, the mental benefits are just as important. To properly engage the correct muscles when doing load bearing movements, you have to think about using those muscles.  Not only does thinking about using the correct muscles improve performance, but it also decreases the risk of injury.  Using the proper form, coordinating the movement of multiple muscle groups, and breathing at the right time through a movement all use brain power and concentration.  Combining all of these factors in a structured exercise program, it contributes to the positive results in memory the studies found.

The unfortunate reality is 1/3 of America is considered obese by the CDC and childhood obesity is also too high.  If heart disease, stroke, and diabetes risk factors don’t get you moving, maybe saving your brain will.  Learn To Move Academy can help your school’s PE program and assisted living facility with a web based custom program to boost your cognitive skills and maybe just help your physical conditioning.  Email Matt Peale at mpeale@ltmacademy.com with any questions.  Check us out on Facebook also, just get moving!