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Brain Fitness should be Alongside All Fitness Protocols

Saturday, December 26, 2009 by: Deanna Dean
Tags: brain, fitness, health news

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(NewsTarget) We all share worries about brain decline, especially among the aging population. Scientists have long concluded that mental processing does slow with age. According to most studies, the human brain stops growing in its early 20s, after which it starts to contract. But studies show as we age it is never too late to begin a brain workout and that it can make a difference.

Brain plasticity or neuroplasticity, a familiar term among neuroscientists, is a concept that the brain is not static and will respond to new learning. A Mayo Clinic study of 487 healthy adults aged 65 and older demonstrated that with cognitive fitness training, older adults more than doubled their auditory processing speed (a 131% gain.) This translated to improved memory and attention.

A leading brain fitness company, part of a quickly growing industry, has developed brain workout software. The concept is based on neuroplasticity, the re-wiring of neural pathways, and neurogenesis, the lifelong production of new brain cells.

In the past two years, a team of scientists developed the workout software that can promote positive chemical, physical and functional changes in the brain. Dr. Michael Merzenich of the University of California San Francisco and his colleagues around the world have been leading this effort.

Does muscle strength affect cognitive fitness? The quotidian thought on this has been it was one or the other, brains or brawn. However, a fascinating report was published in the November 2009 edition of the Archives of Neurology by neurologist Dr. Patricia Boyle and her colleagues in Chicago. Researchers initially tested the strength of 970 men and women with normal memory and an average age of 80. Over a four year period they found those who ranked in the top 10% of muscle strength were less likely to experience cognitive loss. Dr. Boyle noted also that, overall, stronger people had less mental decline. She stated that good physical health is important for good brain function and emphasized the importance of staying physically active and keeping muscles strong.

On yet another note Richard Davidson and his neuroscience team at the University of Wisconsin scanned the brains of Tibetan monks to assess the effect of meditation on brain fitness. They found the experienced meditators had achieved increased activation in important areas of the brain that controlled attention and emotion. The monks were able to stay mentally in control and not react to external, distracting stimuli. Not only that but if they meditated with a deliberate goal such as compassion, it would saturate the whole mind and increase the likelihood of spontaneous acts of kindness to others.

Brain fitness is like physical fitness. Some is better than none, more is better than some, according to researcher, Dr. Henry Mahncke. He says, "Sustaining physical fitness, good nutrition, a vibrant social life, plus brain fitness will enable successful aging."

Your healthmate,
Deanna Dean

Boyle P., Buchman A. Wilson Ret al, Association of Muscle Strength With the Risk of Alzheimer Disease and the Rate of Cognitive Decline in Community-Dwelling Older Persons, Archives of Neurology, November 2009, Pp 1339-1344
Warren Davies, The Buddhist Brain, GenerallyThinking.com
Strength, brain power and shrinking through the ages
CBC News Online | Updated Aug. 5, 2006

About the author

Deanna Dean is the Wellness Director for Your Health Coach, a company dedicated to health and wellness education.
website: yourhealthcoachdee.com
Dee is a Wellness & Weight Loss Coach, a Certified Natural Health Professional, is pursuing an ND degree-Naturopathic Doctor, is a certified Raw Chef, certified in Dietary Guidelines from the Cooper Institute for Aerobics Research, former Personal Trainer, Yoga and Fitness Studio Owner, TV and Radio Guest, Health Columnist.
Deanna develops customized programs to enhance the health of her clients, educates, and coaches dieters for safe weight loss.

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