Rarely do neuroscientists, psychologists, and physicians agree equivocally on anything. But they agree on this: Exercise is the best thing you can do for your brain. ‘The latest research shows the cognitive decline is not inevitable,’ says Laura L. Cartensen, Director of the Stanford Center of longevity, and author of A Long Bright Future. Yes, brain volume shrinks slightly. But the brain continues to make us neurons and fine tune neural connections as long as we live.
Aerobic exercise jump-starts that process. ‘It reduces the level of brain loss and keeps cognitive ability sharp,’ says John Medina, Affiliate Professor of Bioengineering at the University of Washington School of Medicine, and author of Brain Rules. ‘It also slashes your life risk of Alzheimer’s in half and your risk of general dementia by 60 percent.’ How is this possible? Exercise boosts the flow of blood to the brain, spurring the release of what’s been dubbed Miracle-Gro for the brain — brain-derived neurotropic factor (BDNF). This chemical stimulates the formation of new neurons in the hippocampus, the area involved in memory, learning, and the ability to plan and make decisions. BDNF also repairs cell damage and strengthens synapses which connect brain cells.
A number of studies show that everyone — young or old, healthy or not — can pump up their brain power by exercising regularly. In one large study at the Cooper Institute in Dallas, researchers tracked 19,458 physically fit adults for 24 years. Those who were most fit at midlife had a substantially lower risk of developing dementia than those who were not physically active. ~ Margery Rosen, AARP
Massage Therapy Center Palo Alto suggests that in addition to regular exercise, you get regular bodywork to support your health and healing. Therapeutic massage helps:
- Reduce muscle tension
- Promote relaxation
- Increase range of motion
- Improve soft tissue function
- Decrease muscle stiffness and fatigue
- Improve exercise performance
- Decrease delayed onset muscle soreness
- Reduce swelling
- Reduce breathing pattern disorders
- Help prevent injuries