Take Your Grandparents On A Long Walk To The Fishing Hole

by Simon Evans - Date: 2006-12-01 - Word Count: 498 Share This!

I have previously written about the power of exercise and omega-3s to protect the brain and improve function. Several more studies, released this week, added support for methods to keep elderly brains fit and agile.

Exercise Improves Brain Function

The first, published in the Journal of Gerontology and highlighted in the Wall Street Journal, demonstrates that a few hours of aerobic exercise a week helps keep brains young. The study followed three groups of adults, aged 60-79. One group performed aerobic training by walking around a gym for an hour a day, three days a week. The second group performed non-aerobic training by stretching and doing some resistance exercises. The third group did not exercise.

The study found that after only three months, the aerobic exercise group (but neither of the other groups) increased their grey matter in frontal brain regions that control higher functions, like memory, multi-tasking, focus and decision-making. The aerobic group also increased the volume of white matter tracks that cross the brain and carry communication signals between the two brain halves. The researchers likened the changes that occurred over the three-month exercise period as equivalent to making the brain three years younger!

Exercise Increases Independence

A second study published in the same issue of the Journal of Gerontology showed that seniors enrolled in an exercise program improved their physical fitness and independence level over those that were simply 'educated' about healthy living. After 6 - 12 months in the program, seniors that received physical fitness training were able to walk longer distances at higher speeds than those that just received information about exercise and nutrition. The study cited the importance of increasing independence in senior citizens in an age where medical science is extending the average life span of our population. Committing to healthy lifestyle choices will help us live longer and not just die slower.

Omega-3s Decrease Dementia

Finally, a third study was the most recent in a string of evidence touting the benefits of fish for brain health. This recent study actually looked at the levels of DHA, an omega-3 fat obtained from fish, in the blood of about 900 seniors (average age of 76). They showed that seniors with higher levels of the omega-3 fat in their blood had the lowest chance of dementia from Alzheimer's disease or other reasons. In fact, the seniors in the top 25% of blood omega-3 content were about 50% less likely to succumb to the debilitating cognitive disease. The average intake of fish in these top performers was about 3 servings per week or 180 mg of DHA per day, which can be obtained from supplements.

These studies all sum up the importance of lifestyle choices on healthy brains and bodies in the later years. So when you see your grandparents this holiday season, plan a fishing trip. Dust off the poles and reels and take them for a walk down to the creek. A little aerobic activity, some fresh air and a dose of omega-3s will help them stay mentally and physically healthy.

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