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Having trouble seeing through the “brain fog” that sometimes comes with age? Aerobic exercise may be the prescription of choice, especially for older women with mild cognitive impairment, a risk factor for dementia.

Researchers at the University of British Columbia concluded that regular aerobic exercise that gets the heart pumping and causes a sweat seems to increase the size of the hippocampus. This area of the brain is responsible for verbal memory and learning, and is particularly sensitive to the effects of aging and neurological damage.

In a recent study of 86 women in their 70s and 80s, 29 of them had “before and after” MRI scans. Those who completed six months of aerobic training experienced significant growth of the hippocampus, compared to those who participated in balance and muscle toning exercises.

Most people think of exercise as an activity that benefits the body’s muscles. However, aerobic exercise causes the brain to go into overdrive and release adrenalin into the blood. When adrenalin and energy are delivered to the brain, memory is typically enhanced.

From age 20 on, most people experience a one percent decline per year in the hippocampus. But since it’s the major brain region affected by exercise, and a hotspot for Alzheimer’s disease, there is a possibility of reversing the downward trend with aerobic exercise. This is important information, especially considering that every four seconds, one new case of dementia is detected globally.

If you’re ready to get moving, consider…
* Thirty minutes of moderate intensity exercise, like brisk walking, is generally recommended. But if you can’t find the time or need to work up to it, start with just a few minutes a day and add five to 10 minutes each time.

* Too hot outside? Try other activities like climbing the stairs and dancing. And don’t forget about housework and yard work. If you break a sweat, those activities count as well.

The benefits of exercise are felt in many other ways, too. After moderate to strenuous physical activities, most people report an improved mood, better quality of sleep, reduced stress and lower levels of anxiety.
UCF Pegasus Health is now offering therapeutic yoga classes on Friday mornings beginning September 5. Classes include yoga for heart disease and hypertension, arthritis and pain management, and diabetes. 

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