Exercise increases your physical fitness. But what about your cognitive fitness?
New research is shedding light on the relationship between physical exercise, walking endurance, and cognitive health- and the results are especially exciting for older people who want to prevent cognitive decline.
We'll have a look at that study, and examine the significance of brain health for maintaining strong bones and avoiding fracture.
Confirmed By Science: Physical Exercise Improves Brain Health
A recent study examed MRI brain scans of 1,206 healthy, young adults and compared their brain structure and function to the participants' physical fitness. The physical assessment required each person to walk as fast as they could for two minutes, and then the distance they walked was recorded. The participants also completed cognitive tests that measured memory, sharpness, reasoning, and judgment.
The researchers analyzed these data points to determine the relationship between physical fitness, the integrity of the brain's white matter, and performance on cognitive tests. They found that the most physically fit participants had increased cognitive performance and brain structural integrity.1
Conversely, the participants with the lowest level of physical fitness performed worst on the cognitive tests, and their MRI's revealed lower structural integrity of the white matter in their brains. Healthy white matter improves the speed and quality of nerve connections in the brain.1
This result adds to the list of reasons to maintain a regular practice of physical activity.
A recent study compared the brain scans, physical fitness, and cognitive performance of 1,206 participants. The researchers found that increased physical fitness correlated with healthier brain integrity, and improved cognitive performance. In short, exercise keeps your brain healthy.
Other Health Risks Of Sedentarism
A study of world exercise levels in 2018 found that more than a quarter of the world's adults, or about 1.4 billion people, are insufficiently active. Furthermore, no improvement in physical activity levels has been observed since 2001.2
This has grim implications for public health, as the study authors noted:
“Insufficient physical activity is a leading risk factor for non-communicable diseases, and has a negative effect on mental health and quality of life.”2
The World Health Organization recommends at least 150 minutes of “moderate-intensity” exercise such as walking, swimming or gentle cycling each week. The approximately 1.4 billion people around the globe who are at risk of a variety of health problems due to lack of exercise, including:
- Increased anxiety3
- Cardiovascular Disease5
- Increased blood pressure7
- Muscle atrophy
- Increased blood sugar levels8
- Cognitive decline9
- Loss of bone mass10
Savers know about the importance of exercise for bone health. It's absolutely essential for the creation of new bone and to help prevent falls and fractures. As the list above demonstrates, it's also essential for maintaining overall health.
As many as 1.4 billion people worldwide don't get the 150 minutes of weekly exercise recommended by the World Health Organization. As a result, they are at greater risk of many health problems including heart attack, obesity, high blood sugar, and bone loss.
Cognitive Health And Bone Health
Studies have shown that cognitive health and bone health are interconnected. In one case, cognitive training was used to reduce frailty, and in the process, it resulted in increased lower limb strength.11
Mental health and cognitive health are of course closely related, and other studies have found that symptoms of depression are paired with bone loss in many postmenopausal women.12
Clearly, the ability to live independently allows you to make the best choices for your bone health when it comes to diet, exercise, and lifestyle. Cognitive diseases such as Alzheimer's and dementia take that ability away from millions of people all around the globe.
Approximately 5.3% of people over the age of 60 are living dementia, globally.13 In the United States, one in ten people aged 65 or older has Alzheimer's disease. The percentage increases with age.14
These statistics underscore the importance of taking action now to improve and maintain cognitive health through an active life that includes regular exercise.
A loss of cognitive function has a negative impact on bone health. Higher-level brain function allows you to lead an active life and take care of your body and your bones by making your own health decisions.
Exercise Combined With A Healthy Diet Can Have Profound Cognitive Benefits
Studies have proven how radically effective physical activity interventions can be.
One study showed that you can improve cognitive function and decrease your brain’s functional age in as little as six months. Participants in the study followed a heart-healthy diet that cut salt, fatty foods, and sugar while emphasizing vegetables, fruits, and whole grains. Three times a week they completed an exercise routine that consisted of 10 minutes of warm-up followed by 35 minutes of continuous walking or stationary cycling.
The result was an improvement in brain function that effectively reversed nine years' worth of aging.
This provides a clear path toward preserving cognitive function and preventing the aging of the brain. It's no coincidence that the same path leads to stronger, healthier bones.
Studies have found that a healthy diet and regular exercise can dramatically improve cognitive function.
Achieve Your Wellness Goals With Ease And Professional Guidance
The studies we reviewed in today's article further confirm the absolute imperative of regular exercise. Our brains, our bones, and our overall health depend upon it.
That's why the Save Institute developed Save Trainer, a resource to help you meet your exercise and wellness goals. With an ever-growing library of on-demand exercise videos led by certified trainers, you'll have the support you need to craft a workout plan customized for success. Learn more about SaveTrainer here.