Exercise cuts risk of chronic disease in older adults

July 23, 2018

Science Daily/Westmead Institute for Medical Research

People who engaged in the highest levels of total physical activity were twice as lively to avoid stroke, heart disease, angina, cancer and diabetes, and be in optimal physical and mental shape 10 years later, experts found.

 

Researchers at the Westmead Institute for Medical Research interviewed more than 1,500 Australian adults aged over 50 and followed them over a 10-year period.

 

People who engaged in the highest levels of total physical activity were twice as lively to avoid stroke, heart disease, angina, cancer and diabetes, and be in optimal physical and mental shape 10 years later, experts found.

 

Lead Researcher Associate Professor Bamini Gopinath from the University of Sydney said the data showed that adults who did more than 5000 metabolic equivalent minutes (MET minutes) each week saw the greatest reduction in the risk of chronic disease.

 

"Essentially we found that older adults who did the most exercise were twice as likely to be disease-free and fully functional," she said.

 

"Our study showed that high levels of physical activity increase the likelihood of surviving an extra 10 years free from chronic diseases, mental impairment and disability."

 

Currently, the World Health Organization recommends at least 600 MET minutes of physical activity each week. That is equivalent to 150 minutes of brisk walking or 75 minutes of running.

 

"With aging demographics in most countries, a major challenge is how to increase the quality and years of healthy life," Associate Professor Gopinath said.

 

"Our findings suggest that physical activity levels need to be several times higher than what the World Health Organization currently recommends to significantly reduce the risk of chronic disease.

 

"Some older adults may not be able to engage in vigorous activity or high levels of physical activity.

 

"But we encourage older adults who are inactive to do some physical activity, and those who currently only engage in moderate exercise to incorporate more vigorous activity where possible," she concluded.

 

The research compiled data from the Blue Mountains Eye Study, a benchmark population-based study that started in 1992.

 

It is one of the world's largest epidemiology studies, measuring diet and lifestyle factors against health outcomes and a range of chronic diseases.

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/07/180723142920.htm

Poor air quality does not offset exercise's heart benefits

July 18, 2018

Science Daily/American Heart Association

Even in areas with moderate to high levels of traffic pollution, regular physical activity reduced the risk of first and recurrent heart attack

 

"While exercise is known to reduce cardiovascular disease risk; pollution can increase the risk of cardiovascular disease, including heart attacks, asthma and chronic obstructive lung disease," said Nadine Kubesch, Ph.D., lead author and researcher at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark. "Currently there is little data on whether poor air quality cancels out the protective benefits of physical activity in preventing heart attacks."

 

Researchers in Denmark, Germany and Spain evaluated outdoor physical activity levels (sports, cycling, walking and gardening) and nitrogen dioxide (NO2 pollutant generated by traffic) exposure in 51,868 adults, age 50-65, comparing self-reported activities and lifestyle factors against heart attack. Over a 17.7-year period, there were 2,936 first heart attacks and 324 recurrent heart attacks.

 

To estimate average NO2 exposure, researchers used national traffic pollution monitoring data for each participants' address and found:

 

·     Higher levels of were associated with more heart attacks, however, the risk was lower among those who were physically active.

·     Moderate cycling for four or more hours per week cut risk for recurrent heart attack by 31 percent; and there was a 58 percent reduction when all four types of physical activity (together totaling four hours per week or more) were combined, regardless of air quality.

·     Those who participated in sports had a 15 percent lower rate of initial heart attacks and there was a 9 percent risk reduction associated with cycling, regardless of air quality

·     Compared to participants with low residential NO2 exposure, those in higher risk areas had a 17 percent increase risk in first heart attack and 39 percent for recurrent heart attack.

 

In participants who developed a heart attack (first or recurrent), the average NO2 exposure level was 18.9 micrograms per cubic meter air (μg/m3) with an overall average of 18.7 μg/m3, which is below the current NO2 European Union exposure guideline (50 μg/m3 over 24 hours).

 

"Our study shows that physical activity even during exposure to air pollution, in cities with levels similar to those in Copenhagen, can reduce the risk of heart attack," Kubesch said. "Our research supports existing evidence that even moderate levels of regular physical activity, such as active commuting, are sufficiently intense to get these health benefits.

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/07/180718082228.htm

15-minutes of exercise creates optimal brain state for mastering new motor skills

Exercise increases brain connectivity and efficiency

July 11, 2018

Science Daily/McGill University

A recent study demonstrates that exercise performed immediately after practicing a new motor skill improves its long-term retention. More specifically, the research shows, for the first time, that as little as a single fifteen-minute bout of cardiovascular exercise increases brain connectivity and efficiency. It's a discovery that could, in principle, accelerate recovery of motor skills in patients who have suffered a stroke or who face mobility problems following an injury.

 

If you want to learn to walk a tightrope, it's a good idea to go for a short run after each practice session. That's because a recent study in NeuroImage demonstrates that exercise performed immediately after practicing a new motor skill improves its long-term retention. More specifically, the research shows, for the first time, that as little as a single fifteen-minute bout of cardiovascular exercise increases brain connectivity and efficiency. It's a discovery that could, in principle, accelerate recovery of motor skills in patients who have suffered a stroke or who face mobility problems following an injury.

 

In his earlier work, Marc Roig, the senior author on the study, had already demonstrated that exercise helps consolidate muscle or motor memory. What he and the McGill-based research team sought to discover this time was why exactly this was the case. What was going on in the brain, as the mind and the muscles interacted? What was it that helped the body retain motor skills?

 

A muscular video game

 

To find out, the research team asked study participants to perform two different tasks. The first, known as a "pinch task" is a bit like a muscular video game. It consists of gripping an object akin to a gamers' joystick (and known as a dynamometer) and using varying degrees of force to move a cursor up and down to connect red rectangles on a computer screen as quickly as possible. The task was chosen because it involved participants in motor learning as they sought to modulate the force with which they gripped the dynamometer to move the cursor around the screen. This was then followed by fifteen minutes of exercise or rest.

 

Participants were then asked to repeat an abridged version of this task, known as a handgrip task, at intervals of 30, 60, 90 minutes, after exercise or rest, while the researchers assessed their level of brain activity. This task involved participants in simply repeatedly gripping the dynamometer, for a few seconds, with a similar degree of force to that which was used to reach some of the target rectangles in the "pinch task". The final step in the study involved participants in both groups repeating the "pinch task" eight and then twenty-four hours after initially performing it, allowing the researchers to capture and compare brain activity and connectivity as the motor memories were consolidated.

 

More efficient brain activity

 

The researchers discovered that those who had exercised were consistently able to repeat the "pinch task" connecting different areas of the brain more efficiently and with less brain activity than those who hadn't exercised. More importantly, the reduction of brain activity in the exercise group was correlated with a better retention of the motor skill twenty-four hours after motor practice. This suggests that even a short bout of intense exercise can create an optimal brain state during the consolidation of motor memory which improves the retention of motor skills.

 

When they looked more specifically at what was going on, the researchers discovered that, after exercise, there was less brain activity, most likely because the neural connections both between and within the brain hemispheres had become more efficient.

 

"Because the neural activation in the brains of those who had exercised was much lower," explains Fabien Dal Maso, the first author on the paper, "the neural resources could then be put to other tasks. Exercise may help free up part of your brain to do other things."

 

The importance of sleep

 

What the researchers found especially intriguing was that when they tested participants at the 8 hour mark, there was little difference between groups in skill retention. In fact both groups were less able to retain the skills they had newly acquired, than they were at the twenty-four mark when the difference between the two groups was once more apparent.

 

"What this suggests to us, and this is where we are going next with our research, is that sleep can interact with exercise to optimize the consolidation of motor memories," says Marc Roig, the senior author on the paper. "It is very exciting to be working in this area right now because there is still so much to be learnt and the research opens doors to health interventions that can potentially make a big difference to people's lives."

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/07/180711153607.htm

It's official -- spending time outside is good for you

July 6, 2018

Science Daily/University of East Anglia

Living close to nature and spending time outside has significant and wide-ranging health benefits -- according to new research. A new report reveals that exposure to greenspace reduces the risk of type II diabetes, cardiovascular disease, premature death, preterm birth, stress, and high blood pressure.

 

A new report published today reveals that exposure to greenspace reduces the risk of type II diabetes, cardiovascular disease, premature death, preterm birth, stress, and high blood pressure.

 

Populations with higher levels of greenspace exposure are also more likely to report good overall health -- according to global data involving more than 290 million people.

 

Lead author Caoimhe Twohig-Bennett, from UEA's Norwich Medical School, said: "Spending time in nature certainly makes us feel healthier, but until now the impact on our long-term wellbeing hasn't been fully understood.

 

"We gathered evidence from over 140 studies involving more than 290 million people to see whether nature really does provide a health boost."

 

The research team studied data from 20 countries including the UK, the US, Spain, France, Germany, Australia and Japan -- where Shinrin yoku or 'forest bathing' is already a popular practice.

 

'Green space' was defined as open, undeveloped land with natural vegetation as well as urban greenspaces, which included urban parks and street greenery.

 

The team analysed how the health of people with little access to green spaces compared to that of people with the highest amounts of exposure.

 

"We found that spending time in, or living close to, natural green spaces is associated with diverse and significant health benefits. It reduces the risk of type II diabetes, cardiovascular disease, premature death, and preterm birth, and increases sleep duration.

 

"People living closer to nature also had reduced diastolic blood pressure, heart rate and stress. In fact, one of the really interesting things we found is that exposure to greenspace significantly reduces people's levels of salivary cortisol -- a physiological marker of stress.

 

"This is really important because in the UK, 11.7 million working days are lost annually due to stress, depression or anxiety."

 

"Forest bathing is already really popular as a therapy in Japan -- with participants spending time in the forest either sitting or lying down, or just walking around. Our study shows that perhaps they have the right idea!

 

"Although we have looked at a large body of research on the relationship between greenspace and health, we don't know exactly what it is that causes this relationship.

 

"People living near greenspace likely have more opportunities for physical activity and socialising. Meanwhile, exposure to a diverse variety of bacteria present in natural areas may also have benefits for the immune system and reduce inflammation.

 

"Much of the research from Japan suggests that phytoncides -- organic compounds with antibacterial properties -- released by trees could explain the health-boosting properties of forest bathing."

 

Study co-author Prof Andy Jones, also from UEA, said: "We often reach for medication when we're unwell but exposure to health-promoting environments is increasingly recognised as both preventing and helping treat disease. Our study shows that the size of these benefits can be enough to have a meaningful clinical impact."

 

The research team hope that their findings will prompt doctors and other healthcare professionals to recommend that patients spend more time in greenspace and natural areas.

 

Twohig-Bennett said: "We hope that this research will inspire people to get outside more and feel the health benefits for themselves. Hopefully our results will encourage policymakers and town planners to invest in the creation, regeneration, and maintenance of parks and greenspaces, particularly in urban residential areas and deprived communities that could benefit the most."

 

'The health benefits of the great outdoors: A systematic review and meta-analysis of greenspace exposure and health outcomes' is published in the journal Environmental Research on 6 July.

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/07/180706102842.htm

Don't let depression keep you from exercising

June 27, 2018

Science Daily/UT Southwestern Medical Center

Exercise may be just as crucial to a depression patient's good health as finding an effective antidepressant.

 

A new study of nearly 18,000 participants found that those with high fitness at middle age were significantly less likely to die from heart disease in later life, even if they were diagnosed with depression.

 

The research -- a collaboration between UT Southwestern and The Cooper Institute -- underscores the multiple ways in which depression may ultimately impact health and mortality. It also highlights the importance of overcoming a common dilemma among patients: How does one cope with hopelessness and still find motivation to exercise?

 

"Maintaining a healthy dose of exercise is difficult, but it can be done. It just requires more effort and addressing unique barriers to regular exercise," says Dr. Madhukar Trivedi, co-author of the study and Director of the Center for Depression Research and Clinical Care, part of the Peter O'Donnell Jr. Brain Institute at UT Southwestern.

 

Doctor's Tips: How to Stay Fit While Treating Depression

 

Dr. Madhukar Trivedi cites previous research showing that depressed patients can often perform about three-fourths of the exercise they're asked to do. He recommends patients take several steps to boost their chances of success:

 

·     Set aside a consistent time to exercise every day, but do not get discouraged by stretches of inactivity. Resume activities as soon as possible.

·     Keep a log to track progress.

·     Vary the exercises to avoid monotony. Keep the workout interesting and fun.

·     Exercise with a friend.

·     Task someone with holding you accountable for maintaining the exercise regimen.

 

The study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association Psychiatry utilized a Cooper Institute database of participants who had their cardiorespiratory fitness measured at an average age of 50 years. Researchers used Medicare administrative data to establish correlations between the participants' fitness at midlife to rates of depression and heart disease in older age. Among the findings, participants with high fitness were 56 percent less likely to eventually die from heart disease following a depression diagnosis.

 

Dr. Trivedi says the findings are just as relevant to younger age groups, in particular college-age adults who are just entering the workforce.

 

"This is the age where we typically see physical activity drop off because they're not involved in school activities and sports," Dr. Trivedi says.

 

"The earlier you maintain fitness, the better chance of preventing depression, which in the long run will help lower the risk of heart disease."

 

Depression has been linked to several other chronic medical conditions such as diabetes, obesity, and chronic kidney disease, which studies show can affect whether antidepressants are likely to help. For patients with these conditions, the more appropriate treatment may be exercise.

 

Dr. Trivedi says the reasons behind this may partly be connected to the general health effects of physical activity, including the fact that exercise decreases inflammation that may cause depression. By reducing inflammation, the risk for depression and heart disease are lowered.

 

"There is value to not starting a medication if it's not needed," says Dr. Trivedi, who's leading a national effort to establish biological tests for choosing antidepressants. "Being active and getting psychotherapy are sometimes the best prescription, especially in younger patients who don't have severe depression."

 

Dr. Trivedi cites previous research showing that depressed patients can often perform about three-fourths of the exercise they're asked to do. He recommends patients take several steps to boost their chances of success:

 

"There is enough evidence to show that the effect of low fitness on depression and heart disease is real," Dr. Trivedi says. "But further study is needed to establish the mechanism by which this effect happens."

 

More about Depression:

·     JAMA study: Fitness at midlife

·     STRIDE study: Fitness and addiction

·     Video: Bringing help straight to schools

·     Video: EEG helps guide treatment

·     Self-test: Are you depressed?

 

Dr. Trivedi is a Professor of Psychiatry who holds the Betty Jo Hay Distinguished Chair in Mental Health and the Julie K. Hersh Chair for Depression Research and Clinical Care. He collaborated with Dr. Benjamin Willis of The Cooper Institute for the JAMA Psychiatry study.

 

"These new insights demonstrate the ongoing importance of fitness throughout the lifespan," says Dr. Willis, Director of Epidemiology at The Cooper Institute and lead author of the study. "Now we know that the long-term benefits, and the connection between mind-body wellness, are more significant than we thought. We hope our study will highlight the role of fitness and physical activity in early prevention efforts by physicians in promoting healthy aging."

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/06/180627160453.htm

Leg exercise is critical to brain and nervous system health

In a new take on the exercise truism 'use it, or lose it,' researchers show neurological health is an interactive relationship with our muscles and our world

May 23, 2018

Science Daily/Frontiers

New research shows that using the legs, particularly in weight-bearing exercise, sends signals to the brain that are vital for the production of healthy neural cells. The groundbreaking study fundamentally alters brain and nervous system medicine -- giving doctors new clues as to why patients with motor neuron disease, multiple sclerosis, spinal muscular atrophy and other neurological diseases often rapidly decline when their movement becomes limited.

 

"Our study supports the notion that people who are unable to do load-bearing exercises -- such as patients who are bed-ridden, or even astronauts on extended travel -- not only lose muscle mass, but their body chemistry is altered at the cellular level and even their nervous system is adversely impacted," says Dr. Raffaella Adami from the Università degli Studi di Milano, Italy.

 

The study involved restricting mice from using their hind legs, but not their front legs, over a period of 28 days. The mice continued to eat and groom normally and did not exhibit stress. At the end of the trial, the researchers examined an area of the brain called the sub-ventricular zone, which in many mammals has the role of maintaining nerve cell health. It is also the area where neural stem cells produce new neurons.

 

Limiting physical activity decreased the number of neural stem cells by 70 percent compared to a control group of mice, which were allowed to roam. Furthermore, both neurons and oligodendrocytes -- specialized cells that support and insulate nerve cells -- didn't fully mature when exercise was severely reduced.

 

The research shows that using the legs, particularly in weight-bearing exercise, sends signals to the brain that are vital for the production of healthy neural cells, essential for the brain and nervous system. Cutting back on exercise makes it difficult for the body to produce new nerve cells -- some of the very building blocks that allow us to handle stress and adapt to challenge in our lives.

 

"It is no accident that we are meant to be active: to walk, run, crouch to sit, and use our leg muscles to lift things," says Adami. "Neurological health is not a one-way street with the brain telling the muscles 'lift,' 'walk,' and so on."

 

The researchers gained more insight by analyzing individual cells. They found that restricting exercise lowers the amount of oxygen in the body, which creates an anaerobic environment and alters metabolism. Reducing exercise also seems to impact two genes, one of which, CDK5Rap1, is very important for the health of mitochondria -- the cellular powerhouse that releases energy the body can then use. This represents another feedback loop.

 

These results shed light on several important health issues, ranging from concerns about cardio-vascular impacts as a result of sedentary lifestyles to insight into devastating diseases, such as spinal muscular atrophy (SMA), multiple sclerosis, and motor neuron disease, among others.

 

"I have been interested in neurological diseases since 2004," says co-author Dr. Daniele Bottai, also from the Università degli Studi di Milano. "The question I asked myself was: is the outcome of these diseases due exclusively to the lesions that form on the spinal cord in the case of spinal cord injury and genetic mutation in the case of SMA, or is the lower capacity for movement the critical factor that exacerbates the disease?"

 

This research demonstrates the critical role of movement and has a range of potential implications. For example, missions to send astronauts into space for months or even years should keep in mind that gravity and load-bearing exercise play an important role in maintaining human health, say the researchers.

 

"One could say our health is grounded on Earth in ways we are just beginning to understand," concludes Bottai.

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/05/180523080214.htm

Children are as fit as endurance athletes

April 24, 2018

Science Daily/Frontiers

Researchers discover how young children seem to run around all day without getting tired: their muscles resist fatigue and recover in the same way as elite endurance athletes. The study, which compared energy output and post-exercise recovery rates of young boys, untrained adults and endurance athletes, can be used to develop athletic potential in children and improve our knowledge of how disease risk, such as diabetes, increases as our bodies change from childhood to adulthood.

 

Children not only have fatigue-resistant muscles, but recover very quickly from high-intensity exercise -- even faster than well-trained adult endurance athletes. This is the finding of new research published in open-access journal Frontiers in Physiology, which compared the energy output and post-exercise recovery rates of young boys, untrained adults and endurance athletes. The research could help develop athletic potential in children as well as improve our understanding of how our bodies change from childhood to adulthood -- including how these processes contribute to the risk of diseases such as diabetes.

 

"During many physical tasks, children might tire earlier than adults because they have limited cardiovascular capability, tend to adopt less-efficient movement patterns and need to take more steps to move a given distance. Our research shows children have overcome some of these limitations through the development of fatigue-resistant muscles and the ability to recover very quickly from high-intensity exercise," say Sébastien Ratel, Associate Professor in Exercise Physiology who completed this study at the Université Clermont Auvergne, France, and co-author Anthony Blazevich, Professor in Biomechanics at Edith Cowan University, Australia.

 

Previous research has shown that children do not tire as quickly as untrained adults during physical tasks. Ratel and Blazevich suggested the energy profiles of children could be comparable to endurance athletes, but there was no evidence to prove this until now.

 

The researchers asked three different groups -- 8-12 year-old boys and adults of two different fitness levels -- to perform cycling tasks. The boys and untrained adults were not participants in regular vigorous physical activity. In contrast the last group, the endurance athletes, were national-level competitors at triathlons or long-distance running and cycling.

 

Each group was assessed for the body's two different ways of producing energy. The first, aerobic, uses oxygen from the blood. The second, anaerobic, doesn't use oxygen and produces acidosis and lactate (often known by the incorrect term, lactic acid), which may cause muscle fatigue. The participants' heart-rate, oxygen levels and lactate-removal rates were checked after the cycling tasks to see how quickly they recovered.

 

In all tests, the children outperformed the untrained adults.

 

"We found the children used more of their aerobic metabolism and were therefore less tired during the high-intensity physical activities," says Ratel. "They also recovered very quickly -- even faster than the well-trained adult endurance athletes -- as demonstrated by their faster heart-rate recovery and ability to remove blood lactate."

 

"This may explain why children seem to have the ability to play and play and play, long after adults have become tired."

 

Ratel and Blazevich explain the significance of their findings. "Many parents ask about the best way to develop their child's athletic potential. Our study shows that muscle endurance is often very good in children, so it might be better to focus on other areas of fitness such as their sports technique, sprint speed or muscle strength. This may help to optimize physical training in children, so that they perform better and enjoy sports more."

 

Ratel continues, "With the rise in diseases related to physical inactivity, it is helpful to understand the physiological changes with growth that might contribute to the risk of disease. Our research indicates that aerobic fitness, at least at the muscle level, decreases significantly as children move into adulthood -- which is around the time increases in diseases such as diabetes occur.

 

"It will be interesting in future research to determine whether the muscular changes we have observed are directly related to disease risk. At least, our results might provide motivation for practitioners to maintain muscle fitness as children grow up; it seems that being a child might be healthy for us."

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/04/180424083907.htm

It's not your fitness tracker -- it's you

When it comes to measuring fitness, no one gets it right

April 12, 2018

Science Daily/University of Southern California

An international study reveals that no one defines physical activity the same way when they are asked to report how much they exercise. The findings are a caution for researchers trying to make cross-cultural comparisons about exercise.

 

An American, a Brit and a Dutch guy go for a walk. That may sound like the beginning of a joke, but it's actually the end of a USC-led study that could impact future research on physical activity.

 

With the help of fitness-tracking devices, an international team of scientists studied how physically active people consider themselves to be, versus how physically active they really are.

 

The research has revealed that no one gets it right. The American responses suggest they are as active as the Dutch or the English. Older people think they are as active as young people. In reality, though, Americans are much less active than the Europeans and older people are less active than the young.

 

Does this mean Americans are liars about their physical activity, or the Dutch and the English humbly underestimate theirs?

 

"It means people in different countries or at different age groups can have vastly different interpretations of the same survey questions," says Arie Kapteyn, the study's lead author and executive director of the Center for Economic and Social Research at the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences.

 

Kapteyn believes the differences in fitness perceptions are driven by cultural and environmental differences.

 

For instance, Americans are largely dependent on cars while the Dutch frequently walk or ride bicycles to work and for simple errands, Kapteyn says.

 

The study was published on April 11 in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health.

 

Perception vs. reality

 

For the study, the scientists tracked 540 participants from the United States, 748 people from the Netherlands and 254 from England.

 

Men and women in the study, ages 18 and up, were asked in a survey to report their physical activity on a five-point scale, ranging from inactive to very active. They also wore a fitness-tracking device on their wrist (an accelerometer) so that scientists could measure their actual physical activity over a seven-day period.

 

The researchers found that the Dutch and English were slightly more likely to rate themselves toward the "moderate" center of the scale, while Americans tended to rate themselves at the extreme ends of the scale, either as "very active" or "inactive." But overall, the differences in how people from all three countries self-reported their physical activity was modest or non-existent.

 

The wearable devices revealed hard truths: Americans were much less physically active than both the Dutch and English. In fact, the percentage of Americans in the inactive category was nearly twice as large as the percentage of Dutch participants.

 

Reality bytes by age group

 

A comparison of fitness tracker data by age group reveals that people in all three countries are generally less active as they get older. That said, inactivity appeared more widespread among older Americans than participants in the other countries: 60 percent of Americans were inactive, compared to 42 percent of the Dutch and 32 percent of the English.

 

The researchers found that, in all three countries, the disparities between perceived and real activity levels were greatest among participants who reported that they were either "very active" or "very inactive."

 

"Individuals in different age groups simply have different standards of what it means to be physically active," said Kapteyn. "They adjust their standards based on their circumstances, including their age."

 

Kapteyn says that since physical activity is so central to a healthy life, accurate measurements are important to science. The findings indicate that scientists should proceed with caution when interpreting and comparing the results of international fitness studies that have utilized standardized questionnaires.

 

"When you rely on self-reported data, you're not only relying on people to share a common understanding of survey terms, but to accurately remember the physical activity that they report," says Kapteyn. "With the wide availability of low-cost activity tracking devices, we have the potential to make future studies more reliable."

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/04/180412102746.htm

Brain differences in athletes playing contact vs. non-contact sports

April 5, 2018

Science Daily/Indiana University

A study has found differences in the brains of athletes who participate in contact sports compared to those who participate in non-contact sports.

 

The differences were observed as both groups were given a simple visual task. The results could suggest that a history of minor but repeated blows to the head can result in compensatory changes to the brain as it relates to eye movement function. Or it could show how the hundreds of hours that contact sport players spend on eye-hand coordination skills leads to a reorganization of the brain in the areas dedicated to eye movements.

 

While more research is needed, senior author Nicholas Port said the findings contribute important information to research on subconcussive blows -- or "microconcussions" -- that are common in sports such as football, soccer, ice hockey, snowboarding and skiing. Interest in subconcussions has grown significantly in recent years as the long- and short-term risks of concussions -- or mild traumatic brain injury -- have become more widely known and understood.

 

"The verdict is still out on the seriousness of subconcussions, but we've got to learn more since we're seeing a real difference between people who participate in sports with higher risk for these impacts," said Port, an associate professor in the IU School of Optometry. "It's imperative to learn whether these impacts have an actual effect on cognitive function -- as well as how much exposure is too much."

 

To conduct the study, Port and researchers in the IU Bloomington Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences scanned the brains of 21 football players and 19 cross-country runners using fMRI technology.

 

The researchers focused on these sports because football is a physical game in which small but repeated blows to the head are common, whereas cross-country is extremely low risk for such impacts. The contact sport players did not have a history of concussion, but these sports are known to lead to repeat subconcussive blows.

 

The researchers also scanned the brains of 11 non-college-level athletes from socioeconomic backgrounds similar to the football players to ensure their scan results were not rooted in factors unrelated to their sport.

 

The differences in football players' versus cross-country runners' brains were specifically seen in regions of the brain responsible for visual processing. These regions were much more active in football players versus cross-country runners or volunteers who did not play college sports.

 

"We focused on these brain regions because physicians and trainers regularly encounter large deficits in players' ability to smoothly track a moving point with their eyes after suffering an acute concussion," Port said.

 

Although there were clear differences between the brains of the football players and the cross-country runners, Port said interpretation of the study's results is challenging.

 

"Everyone from musicians to taxi drivers has differences in brain activity related to their specific skills," he said. "The differences in this study may reflect a lifetime exposure of subconcussive blows to the head, or they could simply be the result of playing a visually demanding sport where you're constantly using your hands and tracking the ball."

 

The ideal way to find the root cause of these differences would be a similar analysis using only football players, he said. The next generation of wearable accelerometers to measure physical impact during play will greatly enhance researchers' ability to confidently sort players of the same sport into groups based on exposure to subconcussions.

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/04/180405120319.htm

Stopping exercise can increase symptoms of depression

March 22, 2018

Science Daily/University of Adelaide

PhD student Julie Morgan from the University of Adelaide's Discipline of Psychiatry has reviewed the results of earlier studies that examined the effects of stopping exercise in regularly active adults.

 

The results of her review are now published online ahead of print in the Journal of Affective Disorders.

 

"Adequate physical activity and exercise are important for both physical and mental health," says Ms Morgan.

 

"Current public health guidelines recommend being active on most if not all days of the week. At least 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise a week is recommended to maintain health and prevent depression, or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity exercise for added health benefits.

 

"An extensive body of clinical evidence shows that regular exercise can reduce and treat depression. However, there is limited research into what happens with depressive symptoms when exercise is stopped," she says.

 

Ms Morgan reviewed studies that investigated the cessation of exercise in 152 adults. They had each undertaken at least 30 minutes of exercise, three times a week, for a minimum of three months.

 

"In some cases, ceasing this amount of exercise induced significant increases in depressive symptoms after just three days," says Professor Bernhard Baune, Head of Psychiatry at the University of Adelaide and senior author on the paper.

 

"Other studies showed that people's depressive symptoms increased after the first one or two weeks, which is still quite soon after stopping their exercise."

 

Professor Baune says the depressive symptoms arising from stopping exercise occurred in the absence of the typical biological markers commonly involved with depressive symptoms.

 

"This suggests some kind of novel effect in these cases, although we should add some caution here, as the number of people included in the studies we examined was small. Such findings would need to be replicated in additional trials," he says.

 

Professor Baune says the lack of research in this specific area points to the need for further studies, to help better understand the way in which stopping exercise affects depressive symptoms.

 

"For now, it is important that people understand the potential impact on their mental well-being when they suddenly cease regular exercise," he says.

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/03/180322112720.htm

Poor fitness linked to weaker brain fiber, higher dementia risk

February 14, 2018

Science Daily/UT Southwestern Medical Center

Scientists have more evidence that exercise improves brain health and could be a lifesaving ingredient that prevents Alzheimer's disease.

 

In particular, a new study from UT Southwestern's O'Donnell Brain Institute suggests that the lower the fitness level, the faster the deterioration of vital nerve fibers in the brain. This deterioration results in cognitive decline, including memory issues characteristic of dementia patients.

 

"This research supports the hypothesis that improving people's fitness may improve their brain health and slow down the aging process," said Dr. Kan Ding, a neurologist from the Peter O'Donnell Jr. Brain Institute who authored the study.

 

White matter

 

The study published in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease focused on a type of brain tissue called white matter, which is composed of millions of bundles of nerve fibers used by neurons to communicate across the brain.

 

Dr. Ding's team enrolled older patients at high risk to develop Alzheimer's disease who have early signs of memory loss, or mild cognitive impairment (MCI). The researchers determined that lower fitness levels were associated with weaker white matter, which in turn correlated with lower brain function.

 

Distinctive tactics

 

Unlike previous studies that relied on study participants to assess their own fitness, the new research objectively measured cardiorespiratory fitness with a scientific formula called maximal oxygen uptake. Scientists also used brain imaging to measure the functionality of each patient's white matter.

 

Patients were then given memory and other cognitive tests to measure brain function, allowing scientists to establish strong correlations between exercise, brain health, and cognition.

 

Lingering mysteries

 

The study adds to a growing body of evidence pointing to a simple yet crucial mandate for human health: Exercise regularly.

 

However, the study leaves plenty of unanswered questions about how fitness and Alzheimer's disease are intertwined. For instance, what fitness level is needed to notably reduce the risk of dementia? Is it too late to intervene when patients begin showing symptoms?

 

Some of these topics are already being researched through a five-year national clinical trial led by the O'Donnell Brain Institute.

 

The trial, which includes six medical centers across the country, aims to determine whether regular aerobic exercise and taking specific medications to reduce high blood pressure and cholesterol levels can help preserve brain function. It involves more than 600 older adults at high risk to develop Alzheimer's disease.

 

"Evidence suggests that what is bad for your heart is bad for your brain. We need studies like this to find out how the two are intertwined and hopefully find the right formula to help prevent Alzheimer's disease," said Dr. Rong Zhang of UT Southwestern, who oversees the clinical trial and is Director of the Cerebrovascular Laboratory in the Institute for Exercise and Environmental Medicine at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas, where the Dallas arm of the study is being carried out.

 

Prior findings

 

The research builds upon prior investigations linking healthy lifestyles to better brain function, including a 2013 study from Dr. Zhang's team that found neuronal messages are more efficiently relayed in the brains of older adults who exercise.

 

In addition, other teams at the O'Donnell Brain Institute are designing tests for the early detection of patients who will develop dementia, and seeking methods to slow or stop the spread of toxic proteins associated with the disease such as beta-amyloid and tau, which are blamed for destroying certain groups of neurons in the brain.

 

"A lot of work remains to better understand and treat dementia," said Dr. Ding, Assistant Professor of Neurology & Neurotherapeutics. "But, eventually, the hope is that our studies will convince people to exercise more."

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/02/180214181952.htm

Everyday activities associated with more gray matter in brains of older adults

Study measured amount of lifestyle physical activity such as house work, dog walking and gardening

February 14, 2018

Science Daily/Rush University Medical Center

Higher levels of lifestyle physical activity are associated with more gray matter in the brains of older adults, according to a new study.

 

The gray matter in the brain includes regions responsible for controlling muscle movement, experiencing the senses, thinking and feeling, memory and speech and more. The volume of gray matter is a measure of brain health, but the amount of gray matter in the brain often begins to decrease in late adulthood, even before symptoms of cognitive dysfunction appear.

 

"More gray matter is associated with better cognitive function, while decreases in gray matter are associated with Alzheimer's disease and other related dementias," said Shannon Halloway, PhD, the lead author of the Journal of Gerontology paper and the Kellogg/Golden Lamp Society Postdoctoral Fellow in the Rush University College of Nursing. "A healthy lifestyle, such as participating in lifestyle physical activity, is beneficial for brain health, and may help lessen gray matter atrophy (decreases)."

 

Study used accelerometer to measure activity of 262 older adults

 

The study measured the levels of lifestyle physical activity by 262 older adults in Rush's Memory and Aging Project, an ongoing epidemiological cohort study. Participants are recruited from retirement communities and subsidized housing facilities in and around Chicago to participate in annual clinical evaluations and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans, and to donate their brains and other parts of their bodies for research after their deaths.

 

Participants in the lifestyle study wore a non-invasive device called an accelerometer continuously for seven to ten days. The goal was to accurately measure the frequency, duration and intensity of a participant's activities over that time.

 

Lifestyle physical activity is "more realistic for older adults" than a structured exercise program that might require them to go to a gym, according to Halloway.

 

"Accessibility becomes an issue as one ages," Halloway said. "Transportation can be a problem. Gym settings can be intimidating for any individual, but especially so for older adults."

 

Accelerometers provide more precise measures of activity

 

The use of accelerometers was only one of the ways in which this analysis differed from some other investigations of the health of older people. Most research that explores the effects of exercise relies on questionnaires, which ask participants to "self-report" their levels of activity, Halloway said. She added that questionnaires tend to ask in a fairly non-specific fashion about types and intensity of exercise.

 

The real problem with questionnaires, though, is that "sometimes, we get really inaccurate reports of activity," Halloway acknowledged. "People commonly over-estimate, and on the flip side, some underestimate the lifestyle activity they're getting from things they don't consider exercise, like household chores, for example."

 

As to the accelerometer, she says, "it's not as commonly used (in studies of exercise) as we would like," even though accelerometers provide more precise results than self-reporting.

 

Study provided insights into activity levels of people past 80

 

Another departure in Halloway's study from some other investigations was the opportunity she had to assess the effects of exercise on individuals older than 80. In fact, the mean age in this study was 81 years, compared with 70 years for other studies Halloway used as a reference.

 

"One great strength of the Rush Alzheimer's Disease Center is its amazing ability to follow up with participants, and its high retention rates of participants," Halloway says. As a result, the Memory and Aging Project captures a number of participants in that older age group.

 

However, no one was included in Halloway's analysis who had a diagnosis or symptoms of dementia, or even mild cognitive impairment; a history of brain surgery; or brain abnormalities such as tumors, as seen on MRIs.

 

The study compared gray matter volumes as seen in participants' MRIs with readings from the accelerometers and other data, which all were obtained during the same year. Halloway's analysis found the association between participants' actual physical activity and gray matter volumes remained after further controlling for age, gender, education levels, body mass index and symptoms of depression, all of which are associated with lower levels of gray matter in the brain.

 

"Our daily lifestyle physical activities are supportive of brain health, and adults of all ages should continue to try and increase lifestyle physical activity to gain these benefits," Halloway said. "Moving forward, our goal is to develop and test behavioral interventions that focus on lifestyle physical activity for older adults at increased risk for cognitive decline due to cardiovascular disease,"

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/02/180214093828.htm

Running helps brain stave off effects of chronic stress

Exercise protects vital memory and learning functions

February 14, 2018

Science Daily/Brigham Young University

The study finds that running mitigates the negative impacts chronic stress has on the hippocampus, the part of the brain responsible for learning and memory.

 

Most people agree that getting a little exercise helps when dealing with stress. A new BYU study discovers exercise -- particularly running -- while under stress also helps protect your memory.

 

The study, newly published in the journal of Neurobiology of Learning and Memory, finds that running mitigates the negative impacts chronic stress has on the hippocampus, the part of the brain responsible for learning and memory.

 

"Exercise is a simple and cost-effective way to eliminate the negative impacts on memory of chronic stress," said study lead author Jeff Edwards, associate professor of physiology and developmental biology at BYU.

 

Inside the hippocampus, memory formation and recall occur optimally when the synapses or connections between neurons are strengthened over time. That process of synaptic strengthening is called long-term potentiation (LTP). Chronic or prolonged stress weakens the synapses, which decreases LTP and ultimately impacts memory. Edwards' study found that when exercise co-occurs with stress, LTP levels are not decreased, but remain normal.

 

To learn this, Edwards carried out experiments with mice. One group of mice used running wheels over a 4-week period (averaging 5 km ran per day) while another set of mice was left sedentary. Half of each group was then exposed to stress-inducing situations, such as walking on an elevated platform or swimming in cold water. One hour after stress induction researchers carried out electrophysiology experiments on the animals' brains to measure the LTP.

 

Stressed mice who had exercised had significantly greater LTP than the stressed mice who did not run. Edwards and his colleagues also found that stressed mice who exercised performed just as well as non-stressed mice who exercised on a maze-running experiment testing their memory. Additionally, Edwards found exercising mice made significantly fewer memory errors in the maze than the sedentary mice.

 

The findings reveal exercise is a viable method to protect learning and memory mechanisms from the negative cognitive impacts of chronic stress on the brain.

 

"The ideal situation for improving learning and memory would be to experience no stress and to exercise," Edwards said. "Of course, we can't always control stress in our lives, but we can control how much we exercise. It's empowering to know that we can combat the negative impacts of stress on our brains just by getting out and running."

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/02/180214093823.htm

Caffeine’s sport performance advantage for infrequent tea and coffee drinkers

January 19, 2018

Dublin City University

Sports scientists have found that the performance enhancing benefits of caffeine are more apparent in athletes who do not drink caffeine-rich drinks such as tea, coffee, and energy drinks on a daily basis.

 

Researchers Dr Brendan Egan and Mark Evans from the DCU School of Health and Human Performance examined the impact of caffeine, in the form of caffeinated chewing gum, on the performance of 18 male team sport athletes during a series of repeated sprints. The athletes undertook 10 repeated sprints under conditions with and without two sticks of the caffeinated gum, which is equivalent to two strong cups of coffee.

 

They found that the caffeinated gum provided very little advantage to athletes whose bodies may have become desensitised to caffeine through a process called habituation, which occurs by having caffeine frequently.

 

However, the athletes who had a low habitual caffeine consumption maintained their performance in repeated sprint tests after ingesting a caffeinated chewing gum, while the performance of athletes who consumed the caffeine equivalent of three or more cups of coffee per day worsened over the course of the ten repeated sprints. This indicated that this second group did not benefit from caffeine as a performance aid.

 

Caffeine is regarded as one of the most popular performance enhancing supplements among athletes. Its benefits include improved muscle strength, mental alertness, as well as reducing the perception of effort during intense activity, therefore helping athletes to perform faster and longer.

 

The findings from the DCU-led study were published in the International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism. They recommended that athletes who consume caffeine on a regular basis should reduce their consumption in the lead-up to a big performance, if they want to receive the benefits of a caffeine supplement as a performance aid.

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/01/180119090348.htm

Don’t like going to the gym? It could be your personality

January 10, 2018

Science Daily/British Psychological Society (BPS)

The effectiveness of someone’s exercise regime may depend on their individual personality type, with more creative people better suited to outdoor activities.

 

That is the key finding of research being presented today, Thursday 11 January, by John Hackston, Chartered Psychologist and Head of Thought Leadership at OPP, at the British Psychological Society's annual conference of the Division of Occupational Psychology in Stratford-upon-Avon.

 

John Hackston said:

 

"We were keen to investigate how organisations could help their staff's development through exercise, finding that matching an individual's personality type to a particular type of exercise can increase both the effectiveness and the person's enjoyment of it."

 

More than 800 people from a range of businesses across several countries were surveyed for the study, which found that people with extraverted personality types were more likely to prefer exercising at the gym.

 

Staff with a preference for objective logic were also more likely to stick with a regimented exercise plan than those who view feelings and values as being more important.

 

More creatively minded staff, particularly those who enjoy working with new ideas, were much better suited to outdoor activities such as cycling and running when compared to a structured gym regime.

 

John Hackston added:

 

"The most important piece of advice to come out of this research is that there is not one type of exercise that is suited to everyone.

 

"There can be pressure to follow the crowd to the gym or sign up to the latest exercise fad, but it would be much more effective for them to match their personality type to an exercise plan that is more likely to last the test of time.

 

"Organisations can help their staff to improve their fitness using this research, with increased fitness potentially leading to lower illness-related absences and increased employee satisfaction."

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/01/180110223412.htm

Try exercise to improve memory and thinking, new guideline urges

December 28, 2017

Science Daily/Mayo Clinic

For patients with mild cognitive impairment, don't be surprised if your health care provider prescribes exercise rather than medication. A new guideline for medical practitioners says they should recommend twice-weekly exercise to people with mild cognitive impairment to improve memory and thinking.

 

The recommendation is part of an updated guideline for mild cognitive impairment published in the Dec. 27 online issue of Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

 

"Regular physical exercise has long been shown to have heart health benefits, and now we can say exercise also may help improve memory for people with mild cognitive impairment," says Ronald Petersen, M.D., Ph.D., lead author, director of the Alzheimer's Disease Research Center, Mayo Clinic, and the Mayo Clinic Study of Aging. "What's good for your heart can be good for your brain." Dr. Petersen is the Cora Kanow Professor of Alzheimer's Disease Research.

 

Mild cognitive impairment is an intermediate stage between the expected cognitive decline of normal aging and the more serious decline of dementia. Symptoms can involve problems with memory, language, thinking and judgment that are greater than normal age-related changes.

 

Generally, these changes aren't severe enough to significantly interfere with day-to-day life and usual activities. However, mild cognitive impairment may increase the risk of later progressing to dementia caused by Alzheimer's disease or other neurological conditions. But some people with mild cognitive impairment never get worse, and a few eventually get better.

 

The academy's guideline authors developed the updated recommendations on mild cognitive impairment after reviewing all available studies. Six-month studies showed twice-weekly workouts may help people with mild cognitive impairment as part of an overall approach to managing their symptoms.

 

Dr. Petersen encourages people to do aerobic exercise: Walk briskly, jog, whatever you like to do, for 150 minutes a week -- 30 minutes, five times or 50 minutes, three times. The level of exertion should be enough to work up a bit of a sweat but doesn't need to be so rigorous that you can't hold a conversation. "Exercising might slow down the rate at which you would progress from mild cognitive impairment to dementia," he says.

 

Another guideline update says clinicians may recommend cognitive training for people with mild cognitive impairment. Cognitive training uses repetitive memory and reasoning exercises that may be computer-assisted or done in person individually or in small groups. There is weak evidence that cognitive training may improve measures of cognitive function, the guideline notes.

 

The guideline did not recommend dietary changes or medications. There are no drugs for mild cognitive impairment approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

 

More than 6 percent of people in their 60s have mild cognitive impairment across the globe, and the condition becomes more common with age, according to the American Academy of Neurology. More than 37 percent of people 85 and older have it.

 

With such prevalence, finding lifestyle factors that may slow down the rate of cognitive impairment can make a big difference to individuals and society, Dr. Petersen notes.

 

"We need not look at aging as a passive process; we can do something about the course of our aging," he says. "So if I'm destined to become cognitively impaired at age 72, I can exercise and push that back to 75 or 78. That's a big deal."

 

The guideline, endorsed by the Alzheimer's Association, updates a 2001 academy recommendation on mild cognitive impairment. Dr. Petersen was involved in the development of the first clinical trial for mild cognitive impairment and continues as a worldwide leader researching this stage of disease when symptoms possibly could be stopped or reversed.

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/12/171228145026.htm

Short-term exercise equals big-time brain boost

Even a one-time, brief burst of exercise can improve focus, problem-solving

December 21, 2017

Science Daily/University of Western Ontario

 

A 10-minute, one-time burst of exercise can measurably boost your brain power, at least temporarily, researchers at Western University in London, Canada, have found.

 

While other studies have showed brain-health benefits after 20-minutes of a single-bout of exercise, or following commitment to a long-term (24-week) exercise program, this research suggests even 10 minutes of aerobic activity can prime the parts of the brain that help us problem-solve and focus.

 

"Some people can't commit to a long-term exercise regime because of time or physical capacity," said Kinesiology Prof. Matthew Heath, who is also a supervisor in the Graduate Program in Neuroscience and, with master's student Ashna Samani, conducted the study. "This shows that people can cycle or walk briskly for a short duration, even once, and find immediate benefits."

 

During the study, research participants either sat and read a magazine or did 10 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous exercise on a stationary bicycle. Following the reading and exercise session, the researchers used eye-tracking equipment to examine participants' reaction times to a cognitively demanding eye movement task. The task was designed to challenge areas of the brain responsible for executive function such as decision-making and inhibition.

 

"Those who had exercised showed immediate improvement. Their responses were more accurate and their reaction times were up to 50 milliseconds shorter than their pre-exercise values. That may seem minuscule but it represented a 14-per-cent gain in cognitive performance in some instances," said Heath, who is also an associate member of Western's Brain and Mind institute. He is conducting a study now to determine how long the benefits may last following exercise.

 

The work has significance for older people in early stages of dementia who may be less mobile, he said, and for anyone else looking to gain quick a mental edge in their work.

 

"I always tell my students before they write a test or an exam or go into an interview -- or do anything that is cognitively demanding -- they should get some exercise first," Heath said. "Our study shows the brain's networks like it. They perform better.

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/12/171221122543.htm

Working memory positively associated with higher physical endurance, better cognitive function

Suboptimal cardiovascular health, smoking are associated with less cohesive brain network

December 5, 2017

Science Daily/The Mount Sinai Hospital / Mount Sinai School of Medicine

A positive relationship has been found between the brain network associated with working memory -- the ability to store and process information relevant to the task at hand -- and healthy traits such as higher physical endurance and better cognitive function

 

These traits were associated with greater cohesiveness of the working memory brain network while traits indicating suboptimal cardiovascular and metabolic health, and suboptimal health habits including binge drinking and regular smoking, were associated with less cohesive working memory networks.

 

This is the first study to establish the link between working memory and physical health and lifestyle choices.

 

The results of the study will be published online in Molecular Psychiatry.

 

The research team took brain scans of 823 participants in the Human Connectome Project (HCP), a large brain imaging study funded by the National Institutes of Health, while they performed a task involving working memory, and extracted measures of brain activity and connectivity to create a brain map of working memory. The team then used a statistical method called sparse canonical correlation to discover the relationships between the working memory brain map and 116 measures of cognitive ability, physical and mental health, personality, and lifestyle choices. They found that cohesiveness in the working memory brain map was positively associated with higher physical endurance and better cognitive function. Physical traits such as high body mass index, and suboptimal lifestyle choices including binge alcohol drinking and regular smoking, had the opposite association.

 

"Working memory accounts for individual differences in personal, educational, and professional attainment," said Sophia Frangou, MD, PhD, Professor of Psychiatry at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. "Working memory is also one of the brain functions that is severely affected by physical and mental illnesses. Our study identified factors that can either support or undermine the working memory brain network. Our findings can empower people to make informed choices about how best to promote and preserve brain health."

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/12/171205091531.htm

Exercise increases brain size

November 13, 2017

Science Daily/NICM, Western Sydney University

Aerobic exercise can improve memory function and maintain brain health as we age, a new study has found.

 

In a first of its kind international collaboration, researchers from Australia's National Institute of Complementary Medicine at Western Sydney University and the Division of Psychology and Mental Health at the University of Manchester in the UK examined the effects of aerobic exercise on a region of the brain called the hippocampus, which is critical for memory and other brain functions.

 

Brain health decreases with age, with the average brain shrinking by approximately five per cent per decade after the age of 40.

 

Studies in mice and rats have consistently shown that physical exercise increases the size of the hippocampus but until now evidence in humans has been inconsistent.

 

The researchers systematically reviewed 14 clinical trials which examined the brain scans of 737 people before and after aerobic exercise programs or in control conditions.

 

The participants included a mix of healthy adults, people with mild cognitive impairment such as Alzheimer's and people with a clinical diagnosis of mental illness including depression and schizophrenia. Ages ranged from 24 to 76 years with an average age of 66.

 

The researchers examined effects of aerobic exercise, including stationary cycling, walking, and treadmill running. The length of the interventions ranged from three to 24 months with a range of 2-5 sessions per week.

 

Overall, the results -- published in the journal NeuroImage -- showed that, while exercise had no effect on total hippocampal volume, it did significantly increase the size of the left region of the hippocampus in humans.

 

Lead author, NICM postdoctoral research fellow, Joseph Firth said the study provides some of the most definitive evidence to date on the benefits of exercise for brain health.

 

"When you exercise you produce a chemical called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), which may help to prevent age-related decline by reducing the deterioration of the brain," Mr Firth said.

 

"Our data showed that, rather than actually increasing the size of the hippocampus per se, the main 'brain benefits' are due to aerobic exercise slowing down the deterioration in brain size. In other words, exercise can be seen as a maintenance program for the brain."

 

Mr Firth said along with improving regular 'healthy' ageing, the results have implications for the prevention of ageing-related neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer's and dementia -- however further research is needed to establish this.

 

Interestingly, physical exercise is one of the very few 'proven' methods for maintaining brain size and functioning into older age.

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/11/171113195024.htm

Should exercise be what the doctor orders for depression?

November 8, 2017

Science Daily/Michigan State University

More mental health providers may want to take a closer look at including exercise in their patients' treatment plans, a new study suggests. Researchers asked 295 patients receiving treatment at a mental health clinic whether they wanted to be more physically active and if exercise helped improve their mood and anxiety. They also asked if patients wanted their therapist to help them become more active.

 

Michigan State University and University of Michigan researchers asked 295 patients receiving treatment at a mental health clinic whether they wanted to be more physically active and if exercise helped improve their mood and anxiety. They also asked if patients wanted their therapist to help them become more active.

 

Eighty-five percent said they wanted to exercise more and over 80 percent believed exercise helped improve their moods and anxiety much of the time. Almost half expressed interest in a one-time discussion, with many participants also wanting ongoing advice about physical activity with their mental health provider.

 

The study is now published in the journal General Hospital Psychiatry.

 

"Physical activity has been shown to be effective in alleviating mild to moderate depression and anxiety," said Carol Janney, lead author of the study and an MSU assistant professor of epidemiology. "Current physical activity guidelines advise at least 30 minutes, five days a week to promote mental and physical health, yet many of those surveyed weren't meeting these recommendations."

 

More than half of the participants said their mood limited their ability to exercise, which Janney said provides an opportunity for physicians and therapists in clinics to offer additional support.

 

"Offering physical activity programs inside the mental health clinics may be one of many patient-centered approaches that can improve the mental and physical health of patients," Janney said.

 

Marcia Valenstein, senior author and professor emeritus in psychiatry at U-M, agreed.

 

"Mental health treatment programs need to partner with fitness programs to support their patients' willingness to exercise more," she said. "This support might come from integrating personal trainers into mental health clinics or having strong partnerships with the YMCA or other community recreational facilities."

 

Both Valenstein and Janney said that psychiatrists and other providers might discuss with patients the general need to exercise, but few actually sit down with patients and create a comprehensive exercise plan for them or regularly make sure they are adhering to a specific goal.

 

"Mental health providers such as psychiatrists and therapists may not have the necessary training to prescribe physical activity as part of their mental health practice," Janney said. "But by teaming up with certified personal trainers or other exercise programs, it may help them prescribe or offer more recommendations for physical activity in the clinic setting."

 

Results also showed that over half of the patients surveyed showed interest in getting help from a personal trainer and were willing to pay a bit extra, but that the topic of physical activity was rarely discussed by their physician.

 

"This is a missed opportunity," Valenstein said. "If we can make it easier for both therapists and their patients to have easier access to physical activity services, then we are likely to help more patients reduce their depression and anxiety."

 

Once the effectiveness of this approach is proven, she added, health insurers might consider moving in the direction of covering services that help people exercise.

 

"Several insurers already do this for diabetes prevention, so it's not out of the question."

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/11/171108151604.htm

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