We all know that regular physical exercise is good for the body. However, recent studies highlight that the benefits of keeping active extend to brain function and mental wellbeing. Breathe spoke with Alzheimer’s Australia about the link between an active body and a healthy well-functioning brain.
So, why does being active help your grey matter? During physical activity, the brain receives an increase in blood flow. It is thought that this aids the growth and survival of nerve cells. The flow-on effect is, of course, that the rate of cell degeneration is reduced – and this is crucial to maintaining your mental acuity as you age.
Alzheimer’s Australia, who work tirelessly to champion the fight against dementia, tell us that more than 350,000 Australians are living with some form of dementia, with Alzheimer’s being the most prevalent. Although this number is projected to reach 400,000 within a decade, the good news is that small lifestyle changes can play an important role in preventing or delaying the onset of symptoms. As more research is conducted in this area, the evidence overwhelmingly shows that exercise reduces your risk of cognitive decline and dementia.
If you’re already physically active, that’s great! If not, walking where possible is a simple first step; consider walking or riding to work, taking stairs rather than lifts, or parking further from your workplace or the shops. You could even get off the train or bus a stop earlier than usual if you find you have a little extra time on your way home. Something is almost always better than nothing, so integrating small changes into your existing schedule is a tremendous start.
Alzheimer’s Australia suggests that a combination of aerobic, strength, and flexibility exercises is optimal. If that sounds a little daunting, let’s rephrase it: if you take your dog for a walk, then kick a ball with your kids or grandkids, then stretch while watching the news, you’re covering all three bases. If you want to up the ante, the sky’s the limit. Choose things you love doing – whether it’s gardening, jogging, cycling, skipping, yoga, gymnastics, or parachuting (we did say the sky was the limit!)
Studies show that regular exercise can elevate mood and increase feelings of wellbeing. People whose lives are impacted by anxiety or depression find exercise contributes to managing these conditions. In addition, you’ll probably see and appreciate more of your surroundings, and interact with like-minded people.
In 2017, Alzheimer’s Australia will hold 18 Memory Walk & Jog events around the country. These charity fun runs aim to get everyone involved in physical activity and promote an ongoing commitment to keeping active. Alzheimer’s Australia’s Memory Walk & Jog events are family-friendly outdoor fundraisers where everyone is welcome.
See www.memorywalk.com.au for more information about how you can get involved.