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Senior Assisted Living Blog

Physical Exercise Keeps Your Brain Healthy

- Thursday, September 30, 2010

We know that mobility and physical activity promotes mental health.  Studies indicate a relationship between aerobic exercise and enhanced cognition, learning, and even alleviation of mood disorder. This s why we work so hard to increase and vary the activities for residents of Spring Arbor and The Oaks assisted living communities.  Today, let's discuss some of the scientific reasons these efforts are so valuable.

Animal studies have demonstrated a link between cardiovascular exercise and new brain cell development (neurogenesis) in the hippocampus, a structure critical to learning and memory. Dr. Fred Gage and colleagues have begun to describe the underlying mechanisms of this relationship between physical exercise and brain morphology and function. By manipulating levels of specific proteins in the brains of mice it has been determined that this can have an effect on control of stem cell division which can lead to development of new neurons. The medical community believes with advanced age stem cells become less responsive.  Our staff understands this and it serves as a motivator to keep all of us moving, both staff and our dear residents alike. 

One protein known as bone-morhogenetic protein or BMP seems to reduce the activity of these stem cells and may fuel adverse effects of natural aging.  However, exercise seems to counter some of the deleterious effects of proteins such as BMP according to Gage. Mice provided access to a running wheel had 50% less BMP-related brain activity within a week (a positive thing). The mice also demonstrated an increase in another protein known as “noggin” that acts to block BMP. Noggin helps mice perform better on cognitive tasks such as maze learning.

So what does all this mean to you?  It means simply that exercising and staying active is the best way to sustain the health of both mind and body. These findings underscore the importance in humans to be physically active by walking, jogging, swimming, biking, etc. This is why Spring Arbor Living goes to great lengths at all of our Alzheimer's assisted living care centers to keep our residents mentally and physically active