Physical activity STRONGLY determines how old your brain is
12/19/2018 // Ellaine Castillo // Views

Scientists are finding more reasons to encourage people to exercise. A recent study published in the journal Neurology revealed that physical activity has a strong association with brain size and brain health, especially in middle-aged adults. This study is part of the Framingham Heart Study that was initiated in 1948 to determine the risk factors of heart disease.

As people age, exercise becomes increasingly important to maintain physical and mental health. Prior to this study, people have already established that the brain gradually becomes smaller over time. This change in size is especially observed in the hippocampus and prefrontal cortex, which are the parts of the brain involved in memory, learning, goal setting, planning, and other complex activities. Moreover, smaller brain size also increases the risk of neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer's and dementia.

In this study, the researchers observed volunteers who were in their 40s and found that a lack of physical activity led to poor cardiovascular health, as exhibited by rapid heart rate and elevated blood pressure. They also observed that these participants also had smaller brain volumes after a 20-year period. Moreover, Alzheimer's patients who did not exercise in their middle and later years suffered from a more extensive reduction in brain size and in neuronal connections.

Based on these findings, the researchers concluded that exercise and cardiovascular activity prevent age-related changes in brain structure. This is possible since exercise promotes blood flow throughout the body so more oxygen reaches the brain. An adequate oxygen supply allows the brain to perform its normal functions, including the maintenance processes of reorganizing itself and forging new connections. On the other hand, a lack of physical exercise negatively impacts the brain, leading to changes in brain cells that can interfere with their normal functions.

Overall, the results of this study prove just how important physical activity is maintaining not just physical health but brain health as well. (Related: You CAN prevent cognitive decline; experts agree that a mere 15 minutes of exercise a day can prevent Alzheimer’s.)

Tips on how to stick to an exercise routine

It's never too late or too early to start exercising so don't get discouraged if you're only starting now. To achieve the benefits of physical activity, it doesn't matter how intense your workout is, what matters more is that you do it regularly. This can get become a bit difficult especially if you're still a newbie, so here are some tips on how you can stick to your daily exercise routine.

  • Start small -- If you start with big expectations for yourself, it is more likely for you to get disappointed and just give up when you don't immediately achieve them. Set small milestones at first that you know you can achieve and gradually build up to bigger goals as you gain self-confidence and momentum from achieving easier goals.
  • Reward yourself -- Most people need a little push to encourage them to work out. This could be something as simple as a soak in the tub or your favorite food, just make sure that you save it for after you finish exercising.
  • Choose activities you enjoy -- People are more likely to do things that they are happy doing. You don't have to follow certain workouts just because these are what people are doing, go for activities that are more suitable for you and that you won't mind doing regularly.

Other health benefits of physical activity

If you're looking for more reasons to exercise, here are some other health benefits that you can gain from being physically active:

  • It boosts mood
  • It increases energy levels
  • It improves skin health
  • It promotes weight loss
  • It reduces diabetes risk

For more articles about the health benefits of exercise, visit

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