Dr Declan Hofbauer
Upgrade your brain with exercise
As the winter months draw to a close, more and more Melburnians are dusting off their active gear and looking to enjoy the great outdoors. Most of us look to exercise for the immediate benefits of physical fitness and to trim that winter belly, but have you ever thought of what else it might be doing? New and exciting research is finding that physical exercise and movement are key in the management of many conditions, from osteoarthritis to normal brain function, Alzheimer’s and dementia!
The increased blood flow to our brain delivered by exercise improves our mental capacity and function. Nerves fire more efficiently, creating bigger and faster connections, our brains are literally ‘upgraded’ – improving our ability to process and solve complex problems1. Obvious benefits in combating stress and depression are complimented by an improvement of Alzheimer’s and dementia symptoms1,2. Physical activity has been positively linked to a reduction in the compounds connected to the progression of these conditions; the actual architecture of our brains changes for the better1.
Beyond brain health, well-prescribed exercise is one of the simplest forms of management for joint degeneration and arthritis. Across varying presentations and age groups, cardiovascular activity (involving an elevated heart rate) is continually associated with the improvement of both the signs and symptoms of arthritis! Walking just 4 times a week for 30 minutes has been shown to significantly improve symptoms in adult populations3. Combined with a healthy diet and weight loss, inflammation can be reduced and the physical progression of arthritis slowed4. But the benefits don’t stop at joints either.
Immobility is seen as one of the easiest and most accessible modifiable risk factors for the management of chronic diseases5. Exercise has demonstrated benefits similar to that of first line medications prescribed for the prevention of coronary heart disease, stroke rehabilitation, and diabetes6. It is commonly encouraged that exercise is undertaken as a secondary adjunct to normal treatment, boosting the effects of treatment and improving systemic health.
So what can you do?
Exercise doesn’t have to come in the form of expensive memberships or bright spandex, it can be as easy as walking to work or during your lunch break, downloading a yoga app or jogging with a friend. Set manageable goals and speak to the team here at Without Limits Health about what types of exercise are right for you.
1. Alzheimer's Association International Conference (AAIC) 2017. Abstract 14340 (exercise and amyloid in autosomal-dominant AD), presented July 18, 2017; abstract 16680 (exercise and tau), presented July 16, 2017; abstract 19051 (network analysis), presented July 17, 2017.
2. 13th World Congress of Biological Psychiatry 2017 Annual Meeting.
3. Kritchevsky, S. B., Lovato, L., Handing, E. P., Blair, S., Botoseneanu, A., Guralnik, J. M., Liu, C., King, A., Marsh, A. P., Pahor, M., Rejeski, W. J., Spring, B. and Manini, T. (2017), Exercise's effect on mobility disability in older adults with and without obesity: The LIFE study randomized clinical trial. Obesity, 25: 1199–1205. doi:10.1002/oby.21860
4. Effects of dietary weight loss with and without exercise on interstitial matrix turnover and tissue inflammation biomarkers in adults with knee osteoarthritis: the Intensive Diet and Exercise for Arthritis Trial (IDEA). Loeser, R.F. et al. Osteoarthritis and Cartilage, Volume 0 , Issue 0 ,
5. A comparative risk assessment of burden of disease and injury attributable to 67 risk factors and risk factor clusters in 21 regions, 1990–2010: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2010. Lancet 2012;380:2224–60.
6. Naci H, Ioannidis J. Comparative effectiveness of exercise and drug interventions on mortality outcomes: meta epidemiological study. BMJ 2013;347:f5577.