Posts tagged aerobic exercise
Daily Activity Shown To Improve Brain Health In Aging Adults And Elderly Even Those With Brain Pathology

The cognitive benefits of aerobic exercise are well established with trained individuals demonstrating decreased risk of mental health disorders, including anxiety and depression, and improvements of cognitive function and memory compared to their sedentary peers. More recent research has documented daily physical activity is also associated with decreased risk of dementia in aging adults even in those with pathology on brain imaging such as neurofibrillary tangles and amyloid plaques. Both of these brain pathologies are associated with dementia and alzheimer’s disease. Further previous research has shown moderate walking, 45 minutes/day for 3 days/week, actually increased brain volume among particpants. A recent study suggests even general activity such as light housework and gardening may be enough to improve brain health within this population.

Buchman and colleagues examined the impact of daily movement (gardening, housework, exercise) on cognitive and motor function, as well as, brain health (Neurology. 2019). Researchers performed a well designed trial of over 450 aging adults (> 70 y.o.) and monitored their mental and physical function, as well as, daily activity each year over a 20 year period. Of these adults, 191 demonstrated clinical signs of dementia during the study period. In addition, researchers studied the donated brains of these individuals after their deaths to determine the presence of brain abnormalities and pathology.

Consistent with prior research, more active participants demonstrates higher scores on cognitive, memory, and physical tests. Interestingly, these results held up even among individuals with brain pathologies including neurofibrillary tangles and amyloid plaques. Although all of these individuals could have been diagnosed with neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s, 30% tested normally on cognitive function tests at the time of their deaths. Authors suggested exercise and activity may have a protective effect on brain health (symptoms) even in the presence of brain changes (signs of dementia). Authors recommend more research in this area to determine if there is a cause and effect relationship between these two factors.

Exercise Vs. Medications For High Blood Pressure

The ability of aerobic exercise to reduce systolic (top number) blood pressure has long been established. Reductions in blood pressure have been shown to reduce an individual’s risk for chronic diseases including heart disease and ischemic events such as stroke and heart attack. Reducing an adult’s high blood pressure is an aim of many primary care physicians. Commonly utilized medication groups including beta blockers, calcium channel blockers, diuretics, and ace inhibitors are commonly prescribed to effectively reduce high blood pressure. Exercise, although shown to be an effective treatment for 26 chronic diseases, remains underutilized by both patients and physicians prompting many medical groups to adopt “exercise is medicine” platforms to raise awareness. A recent review of the evidence compared the effectiveness of medications and exercise on blood pressure.

The British Journal of Sports Medicine published a review of the medical literature including 391 randomized controlled trials (Naci et al. 2018). These trials included both exercise (10,491 participants) and blood pressure medications (29,281 participants, but unfortunately no trials compared the two interventions against one another. Interestingly, only 56 of the available trials (3508 participants) on the benefits of aerobic exercise on blood pressure were performed in patients with high blood pressure (systolic > 140 mmHg). When authors combined the data of all participants (high blood pressure or normals) they found blood pressure medication was more effective than exercise for lowering blood pressure. Conversely, and importantly, when authors pooled the data of only patients with high blood pressure they found exercise was equally effective to most blood pressure medications (beta blockers, ACE inhibitors, and diuretics). The authors of the review called on researchers to produce more head to head randomized trials between exercise and medications, as well as, stronger methodology to reduce the risk of bias and validity errors. Patients are advised to speak with their physician before making any changes to their medications or beginning an exercise program.

Exercise Shown To Make The Body's Cells Younger

Aerobic exercise has been shown to improve our current mental, emotional, and physical health. In addition, aerobically trained individuals experience significant health benefits including decreased risk of chronic disease and premature death compared to their sedentary peers. In addition to these health benefits, scientists are also researching the impact of exercise on the aging process. New research is discovering exercise impacts aging at the cellular level. Scientists often measure a cell’s age by the length of the tip, telomere, of its’ chromosomes. Shorter chromosome length is associated with cellular dysfunction and cell death, but this length is modifiable through environment factors including exercise. A recent study examined the impact of exercise on chromosome and telomere length.

Werner and colleagues enrolled 124 inactive participants and randomized them into one of four groups including control, aerobic training, interval aerobic training, or resistance training (Eur Heart J. 2018). Both exercise groups attended 3, 45 minute training sessions per week over the 6 month training period. Authors reported aerobic capacity, VO2 max, increased in the exercise groups but only the aerobic training group impacted the individual’s chromosomes. Aerobic training was shown to lengthen telomeres on the ends of chromosomes after the training period. Authors reported the length changes were important for a cell’s regenerative ability and healthy aging.

Successful Aging Linked To Exercise Consistency

The average adult loses approximately 10% of their aerobic capacity, VO2 Max, each decade after age 30. Aerobic capacity is the ability of our bodies to utilize oxygen for work and exercise. The loss of aerobic capacity with aging is associated with the development of chronic diseases, as well as, a loss of function and independence in aging adults. As we have noted in previous blogs these health risks can be reduced by daily exercise. Despite the noted physical, mental, and emotional benefits close to 80% of Americans to not reach federal guidelines for weekly exercise. A recent research study reports a history of lifelong exercise may have a preventative effect on the loss of aerobic capacity and cardiovascular health with aging.

Gries and colleagues in the Journal of Applied Physiology examined the effects of lifelong aerobic exercise on aerobic capacity and aging (2018). Authors compared lifelong exercisers to their untrained peers, as well as, young exercisers. They reported lifelong exercisers reported on average 7 hours of weekly exercise (5 days/week) over a 50 year period. Each of the three groups underwent VO2 max testing of aerobic capacity and a muscle biopsy from their thigh. Authors reported lifelong exercisers had cardiovascular systems which tested similar to those of individuals 30 years younger. Further, biopsy results appeared similar between the older lifelong exercisers and the younger, active participants.

This study adds to the overwhelming benefits of exercise on your health and the aging process.

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Aerobic Exercise Not Sufficient For Muscle Growth

Aerobic exercise should be the foundation of your weekly exercise program because of the mental, emotional, and physical health benefits associated with this type of exercise. Some individuals who complete daily aerobic exercise or training incorrectly believe this type of exercise is sufficient for muscle growth and strength development. Resistance training remains the gold standard for strength development, muscle growth, and injury prevention. A new review of the scientific evidence documents the importance of adding strength training into your weekly aerobic exercise schedule.

A review article was published in the journal Sports Medicine on the available evidence documenting the impact of aerobic or strength training on muscle growth (Grgic et al. 2018). Authors 21 studies of moderate to good methodological quality. The authors concluded aerobic training is not as effective as strength training for muscle type I (slow twitch) and II (fast twitch) muscle fiber growth (hypertrophy). Patient are encouraged to utilize both strength and aerobic training for optimal health and fitness benefits.

Contact the experts at MEND to learn more about how strength training can benefit your health

Effects of Aerobic Exercise on Memory and the Aging Brain

Active adults have many health advantages over their sedentary peers.  The effects of aerobic exercise are widespread across a trained individual's emotional, physical, and mental health.  Recent research has highlighted the beneficial effects of aerobic exercise on anxiety, depression, cognition, and memory.  Many areas of the brain are sensitive to the effects of aerobic exercise and can be positively effected by this training.  In particular, the hippocampus, a small organ in the brain's limbic system crucial for long term memory and spatial navigation, has shown both neurogenesis and slower age related declines in trained individuals.  Researchers believe these positive effects are due in part to an increase in blood vessel formation and circulation driven by aerobic exercise.  In addition, exercise is also correlated with an increase in white matter within the brain.

A recent review of the medical evidence was conducted to determine the impact of aerobic exercise on hippocampus size in humans (Firth et al. 2018).  The authors included 14 studies utilizing brain imaging before and after aerobic exercise training.  They concluded exercise helped prevent the age related declines in nerve and hippocampus health.  Thus, exercise was not shown to improve hippocampus volume but instead preserved the organ's size compared to sedentary groups.