(NaturalHealth365) Most people are aware of the importance of nutrition and regular exercise, especially as we age. However, being a couch potato isn’t just hazardous to your energy levels and waistline; it’s also dangerous to brain health and brain size. Not getting enough exercise could cost you in terms of memory, planning and clarity of thought.
A study conducted, as part of the Framingham Heart Study, has demonstrated a strong link between physical fitness levels, brain size and brain health in middle-aged adults. The Framingham Heart Study originated in 1948 to help identify the top risk factors of heart disease.
By the way, the study tracks large groups of people over significant periods of time.
Look at what exercise does to the brain
The Framingham Heart Study is currently on its third generation of participants. The new research examines the connection between brain size and the cardiovascular fitness of people in their 40s over time. The results were recently published in the journal Neurology.
It was concluded that middle-aged persons with generally poor cardiovascular fitness including a high heart rate and elevated blood pressure response to exercise demonstrated smaller brain volumes 20 years later. Lower fitness levels in the middle and later years have also been found to correlate with increased brain atrophy in those with Alzheimer’s disease.
Couch potato lifestyle threatens our memory and ability to learn
It has already been established that brain size becomes smaller as we age. The hippocampus and prefrontal cortex in particular tend to be affected. These areas of the brain are associated with memory, learning, planning, setting goals, and other complex activities.
Researchers believe the stimulation provided by exercise and cardiovascular activity helps prevent age-related brain atrophy. Exercise increases the flow of blood and oxygen to the brain, thereby enhancing and supporting its ability to reorganize itself and form new neural connections.
By contrast, being a couch potato physically alters the brain in negative ways. Regular exercise seems to remodel the brain by stimulating new cellular creation and other positive changes. Being sedentary causes negative reshaping of brain neurons that can adversely impact its functioning.
Just 20 minutes of exercise per day can bring about great results
This study underscores the importance of staying active and fit during middle age and beyond. Regular physical fitness brings a range of other health benefits as well. The exercise doesn’t have to be highly strenuous, either; studies have shown that walking just 20 minutes per day can bring significant health benefits, including:
• Reduced risk of cardiovascular disease
• Weight management
• Higher energy levels throughout the day
• Improved mood and brain chemistry
• Lower risk of diabetes
Lastly, a short walk each day is also associated with boosting life span by up to one third.
Can you find the time to exercise at least 20 minutes per day? It could make all the difference in terms of your health and quality of life.