Friday, December 9, 2011

Exercise Over 50 For Your Brain by Michael Logan

Exercise over 50 is mandatory. That is if you want the best possible brain.

Of course, you are exercising for buns of steel, but there are some unexpected side effects, because exercise makes for steel axons and dendrites that snap shut like traps.

Maybe you have been reading about the emerging field of brain fitness, and are curious, because you have had a moment or two where you were talking and couldn't recall the subtly nuanced word you needed, and you thought, "Damn, hope that isn't Alzheimer's Disease starting!"

Well, according to the brain fitness folks, our brains will generate replacement parts daily if we take care of the pillars of brain fitness, and we can keep the connections between neurons very strong if we challenge them with novel learning experiences. That is called neuroplasticity, and the growth of new neurons is called neurogenesis.

No one knew that we could grow new neurons until about 15 years ago.

Brain fitness is the result of taking care of what the brain fitness folks are calling the pillars of brain fitness, and the most important of those pillars is physical exercise.

Now you can understand why exercise over 50 is so important.

The other pillars of brain fitness are nutrition, stress management, sleep, and novel learning experiences, which might include computerized brain fitness programs.

So lets talk about physical exercise and its importance to brain fitness.

You may think you need to take up body building, that that is what a workout like this means.

Not true. According to Simon Evans,Ph.D. and Paul Burghardt,Ph.D., the neuroscientists who wrote Brainfit for Life you can start with an increase in physical activity, doing more of what you are already doing, perhaps increasing to physical exercise, like a workout at your local YMCA.

The key to the brain fitness benefits of exercise is the deep breathing, which increases blood flow to the brain which increases the number of small blood vessels bathing neurons with nutrients, which brings us to pillar number 2, nutrition.

Your brain is only 2% of your weight, but consumes 20% of the fuel you burn per day, and it needs a constant supply of the right kind of nutrients, otherwise the communication between cells lacks some of the letters for fully formed neural words, so the communication is garbled.

The brain needs lots of antioxidants and it must have omega 3 fatty acid regularly.

Ordinarily omega 3 comes from fish, but you may not prefer to eat fish, because of the mercury contamination, so your omega 3 fatty acid may come from supplements.

Just make sure you get it.

Very important hormonal activity and memory consolidation happens while you sleep so do not cut it short, or your memory will suffer.

Stress hormones kill you newborn neurons if you generate them too often.

Stress and its hormones were meant to be present for brief periods of time, when we had to fight, freeze, or flee.

If I keep them present as a tool for increased production or income for example, I am going to stop neurogenesis, and brain fitness is reduced.

Novel learning experience means challenging the brain with a new language, a new instrument, a new career, or perhaps one of the newly created computerized brain fitness programs.

Computerized brain fitness programs are probably not what you thought about when you were looking for pages on exercise over 50, but you can increase your brain fitness doing them, and with a fit brain, you can feel much more confident of your ability to operate in the world.