Working on preventing brain disease can start at any age, and luckily, you can even get benefits when you’re in your senior years. Putting consistent time and energy into exercising regularly is a great preventive measure for Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.
In a 2012 study, researchers found that female participants showing signs of early dementia who engaged in weight training showed “significant improvements in both memory and executive functions.” Aerobic exercise is also important, as it stimulates neurogenesis (the birth of new neurons) in the brain.
While reversing dementia, Alzheimer’s or other cognitive diseases would be wonderful, it’s not possible at this time. However, says James Jackson, a neuropsychologist and expert in issues related to brain health at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, “Regular exercise has been shown to slow down dementia progression.
Jackson also agrees that “exercise has many clinically meaningful benefits for cognitive functioning and that it decreases the risk of developing many chronic diseases that are themselves associated with dementia.”
The following exercises are designed to help with brain health and cognition. These exercises should be done in a circuit, including both aerobic and strength-training exercises to enhance the birth of more brain neurons.
Each exercise is 30 seconds long, followed by a 10-second rest. Go through the circuit, then repeat up to three times, three times per week.
Standing Knee Raises
Muscles targeted: cardiovascular (heart), thighs and abdominals
- Stand with feet hip-width apart.
- Bring one knee up, and pull both of your elbows toward your knee at the same time, like a standing crunch.
- Release that knee, then quickly bring up the other knee.
Increase the intensity: Bounce as you lift your knees.
Squats with Bicep Curls
Muscles targeted: gluteals, thighs and biceps
- Stand with your feet hip-width apart, or slightly wider.
- Hold dumbbells in your hands by your sides, and sit back into a squat position, with your knees behind your toes and your chest lifted up.
- Keep your core engaged, and as you stand up, curl your arms and squeeze your biceps.
Increase the intensity: Add a shoulder press at the top.
Rear Lunges with Lateral Shoulder Raises
Muscles targeted: thighs, gluteals and shoulders
- Stand with both feet together and arms by your sides, holding light dumbbells.
- Step one leg back, and drop your knee toward the floor, lifting your rear heel off the ground. Your front knee should be at 90 degrees.
- As you come back to standing, raise your arms to your sides with a slight bend in your elbows.
- Repeat on the other leg.
Increase the intensity: Drop your knee closer to the floor.
If you’re unsure where to start when it comes to improving your brain health, begin with your body. Getting active and moving on a regular basis stimulates your body and mind, increases blood flow and oxygen to the brain and helps decrease the risk of many diseases.