19.12.14
Health & wellbeing

Head Case

Middle aged men in fitness clothes

It’s been reported, this week, that exercise and diet help to lessen the risk of Alzheimer’s and that such healthy activities may also cut the threat of dementia by 36%. The fact that exercise strengthens brain health as well as the fitness of the body positions it as crucial to our overall long-term wellbeing. It’s no longer just about the physical. Exercise is fundamental to every bit of our being, outer and inner – and that includes our happiness.

To live a long and healthy life is an unspoken goal for most of us. Lifestyle is responsible for up to 76% of changes in the ageing of the brain, according to Age UK, with key lifestyle changes having the potential to reduce the risk of developing dementia by as much as 36%.* Those lifestyle changes include regular physical exercise, a Mediterranean diet, not smoking, drinking in moderation and preventing diabetes, as detailed by the charity. The fact that exercise is up there, at the top of the list, comes as no great surprise; physical exercise and brain health are, after all, inextricably intertwined.

Wikipedia states: “Physical exercise, particularly continuous aerobic exercises such as running, cycling and swimming, has many cognitive benefits and effects on the brain. Influences on the brain include increases in neurotransmitter levels, improved oxygen and nutrient delivery, and increased neurogenesis in the hippocampus. (The brain area involved in verbal memory and learning). The effects of exercise on memory have important implications for improving children's academic performance, maintaining mental abilities in old age, and the prevention and potential cure of neurological diseases.”

Exercise can affect the brain on many levels. According to the makers of brain training system, BrainHQ, it increases the heart rate, pumping more oxygen to the brain, and it also helps the release of hormones, which help to provide a nourishing environment for the growth of brain cells. Anything that is good for your heart is essentially good for your brain.** A recent study, carried out by the University of British Columbia, confirms this as researchers findings proved that regular aerobic exercise boosts the size of the hippocampus. *** 

Exercise is now recognized by many in the medical profession as an effective treatment for many forms of depression. As the act of exercising is known to release endorphins, the body’s very own antidepressant, there is an accepted link between regular exercise and feeling a degree happier in oneself. 

The fact that exercise is now being talked about in correlation with mental wellbeing as well as physical wellbeing supports the thinking that it is a key component of a better life. It doesn’t really matter if you measure that ‘better’ by feeling well or feeling happy, living longer or having a better quality of life for the years that you’re around… Whatever constitutes a better life for the individual, exercise can only help you to achieve it. Taking that on board, getting into the habit of exercising then becomes a bit of a no-brainer !