Excercising for Brain Health
Aerobic exercise has the potential to improve your cognitive abilities in a significant way, but resistance training also offers benefits in such areas as executive function, long-term and short-term memory according to recent research.
Seniors who combine aerobics and resistance forms of exercise have the potential of a significant boost in brain power, according to a recent review.
Completed by University of Canberra researchers, this Australian study offers the most comprehensive review of results and combined information from 39 studies published prior to the end of 2016 and could help to prevent the loss of brain power that often accompanies aging.
The study team considered the effects of several types of exercise, at differing levels of intensities and the time spent in the activity to see how it affects brain health in aging populations through the 50s, and included both resistance training, like lifting weights versus other forms that combine resistance and aerobic exercise, including yoga and tai chi.
It assessed the effects of both types of exercise on cognitive abilities including attention, overall brain capacity, mental processing that helps to achieve goals (functional memory), overall memory and working memory, which process short-term information.
According to the results, aerobic activities help to improve one’s cognitive ability, but resistance training improves short-term memory, overall memory and the mental processing necessary to achieve one’s goals. This would indicate that both types of exercise are beneficial to brain health.
Exercise sessions that last 45 to 60 with moderate to vigorous intensity provide a positive result in regard to cognitive function, regardless of the frequency.
Additionally, these positive results are achievable regardless of the current brain health of the participant.
The study also notes that tai chi offers improvement in the cognitive abilities, as shown in other previous studies. However, the team also notes their analysis is based on a limited number of studies and calls for a larger study to confirm the findings; however, tai chi is a less intense form of exercise that could provide benefits for seniors who are no longer able to participate in more difficult types of exercise.
The team believes there is enough evidence in their review for physicians to prescribe both types of exercises as a way of improving brain health in seniors over 60.
Mediterranean Diets Effect on Brain Health
The Mediterranean diet, which recommends large amounts of vegetables, fruits, beans, cereal grains and olive oil, also has the potential to impact brain health, according to a second study.
This study of seniors who follow the Mediterranean diet shows they retained greater brain volume during the three-year study than participants who did not follow the diet. Contrary to another study, this one found that the amount of fish versus meat one consumes is not related to brain changes.
Along with the large amounts of large amounts of vegetables, fruits, beans, cereal grains including wheat and rice, and olive oil, the Mediterranean diet also recommends consuming moderate amounts of dairy, fish, and wine, but limits the amount of poultry and red meat. It seems to reduce the shrinking of the brain that results in the loss of brain cells and affects learning and memory.
The Brain and Fruit
Early humans depended on what is the simplest of snacks to develop their larger and more powerful brains, according to researchers. That simple snack was fruit.
Fruit along with the leaves of plants, which is a basic form of foodstuffs, provided these beings with enough energy to bulk up their brains, argue the scientists.
Alex Decasien, the corresponding author in the study reports this as how humans got their crazy huge brains, in comparison to other creatures. However, he reports modern humans eat a much lower quality diet.
This study, from Nature Ecology & Evolution, considers the staple food of more than 140 species of primates and is based on the assumption that recent evolution has not changed their diets remarkably.
According to this research, primates with a diet higher in fruits than diets have brains that are approximately 25% larger than animals that eat diets higher in leaves.
Humans likely developed these larger and more powerful brains, with the help of fruit, one of the simplest snacks available today.
The results of this study provide cause to question a theory that rose to the top in the 1990s and has remained there ever since. That theory states primates developed larger brains in order to survive and have offspring as social groups became more complex.
While the study recognizes that living in social groups present challenges that also help the primate to bet smarter, it finds no link between the size of the primate’s grey matter and the complexity of his society.
Instead, it finds a strong correlation between the primate’s brain size and its consumption of fruit. Fruit is higher in calories than leaves, and in the evolutionary process, this additional fuel is a necessity for the species to evolve and increase its brain size.
Other factors concerning fruit that influence brain size include the necessity to remember the plants that produce fruit, where they are more likely to grow and how to break open the fruit to consume its contents. These processes require the larger brain, which also needs additional fuel in order to operate efficiently.
According to the study’s author, the human brain accounts for approximately 2% of his body weight but requires 25% of the energy consumed in food. This makes the brain an organ that is crazy expensive.
Although this study disagrees with the more orthodox thoughts regarding the evolution of the human brain, it is likely to present further topics for scientific study.
The findings of this study are published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine and available online.