Exercise Your Body to Keep Your Brain Healthy

The first step toward maintaining a healthy, active brain is to maintain a healthy, active body. Regular exercise — at least twenty minutes a day — is one great way to preserve your mental acuity. Aerobic exercise helps get the blood coursing through your system, carrying oxygen and glucose to your brain — two substances the brain needs in order to function.

Regular exercise also can prod the brain into producing more molecules that help protect and produce the brain's neurons. Though studies are still underway to establish the link between exercise and increased brain neurons, many researchers — including those involved with Alzheimer's disease research — are studying the protective effects of regular physical exercise on the brain's neural paths for transmitting signals.

Fact

Physical exercise is a great way to reduce stress, and stress can take a serious toll on cognitive functions. Stress inhibits your ability to concentrate, and it can shorten your lifespan. The New England Centenarian Study has found that one trait common among those who live beyond the age of 100 is the ability to handle stress. (See Chapter 8 for other recommended stress-busters.)

Regulating Glucose

As you exercise, your body regulates glucose better. Losing weight, too, can help with glucose management. When glucose is properly regulated in your body, it protects the hippocampus, which in turn keeps your memory organizing ability intact. Research has usedMRIs to show that people in better physical shape and whose glucose levels are within normal limits have larger hippocampuses and better memory function.

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