An in-depth review of 4,600 clinical trials — led by researchers at the Berenson-Allen Center for Noninvasive Brain Stimulation at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) published last May, provided further insight into what we already know; that staying active is vital for maintaining optimal health as we age. However, this latest study was undertaken explicitly to more clearly define the amount of exercise that contributes to better brain health in older adults, as well as those with dementia. The researchers were not surprised that regular exercise contributes to overall brain health, but they were intrigued by the fact that individuals (older adults and those with mild cognitive impairment) who exercised for at least 52 hours over a period of six months were the ones who enjoyed enhanced improvements in mental processing speed. The study concluded that it is the cumulative effect of exercise that is most significant, not necessarily the number of hours exercised per week. The researchers also found that nearly any type of physical activity — walking, running, cycling, weight-lifting as well as more mindful exercise, such as yoga and tai chi, all contributed to improved cognitive performance.
So if you start an exercise regimen — stick with it — and keep your brain functioning in top form.
What else can you do to improve brain function? Quite a few things, according to experts.
Sandra Bond Chapman, Ph.D., founder and chief director of the Center for BrainHealth at The University of Texas at Dallas and author of Make Your Brain Smarter has some great ideas. She addressed the issues of preserving and improving the brain’s capacity in an interview I conducted for my book Kensho: A Modern Awakening. Chapman is quick to point out that our life expectancy is longer than ever before. We rarely pay enough attention to maintaining brain health. The good news is that there is hope for us all. Chapman says that when you develop new interests, pursue hobbies or perform specific brain exercises, you enhance your brain’s ability to become more proficient, and at the same time, expand memory. The science of neuroplasticity confirms this rule — so try new things to help your brain make new connections. Simply put, you have considerable control over your brain function since much depends on what you experience, and how you use your brain.
Published on Inc. August 23, 2018