Here's why even a simple exercise routine helps your brain

Large group of happy enthusiastic elderly ladies exercising in a gym sitting in chairs doing stretching exercises with rubber bands.
Large group of happy enthusiastic elderly ladies exercising in a gym sitting in chairs doing stretching exercises with rubber bands. Photo credit Getty Images
By , Audacy

A new research study that was presented at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference (AAIC) on Tuesday showed that a simple exercise routine consisting of aerobics or stretching can help your brain.

The EXERT Study was conducted during the COVID-19 pandemic among 300 older adults with mild cognitive impairment (MCI), a condition that in some cases could lead to Alzheimer's or dementia, according the AAIC.

Half of the participants in the study were assigned aerobic exercises, while the others had stretching-and-balance to slightly raise their heart rates, according to The Associated Press.

"Even with the lockdowns, isolation and constantly shifting social guidelines, 80% of study participants complied with their exercise regimen and completed the study," the AAIC said in a news release. "This is a tribute to the commitment and flexibility of the study participants and personnel."

The AP noted that participants in the study got the help and instruction from trainers at YCMAs around the United States and even by video calls during the pandemic.

The AAIC went on to say that the study results were "remarkable and encouraging," as it showed just how important physical activity is for the brain and compared the results to those with MCI who did not participate in the study.

"After 12 months, study participants with MCI in both the aerobic exercise intervention arm and stretching arm showed no cognitive decline," the AAIC said.

"A comparison group of other older adults with MCI from the Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative who experienced neither of the EXERT interventions showed significant cognitive decline over 12 months. This is remarkable and encouraging."

The AAIC added that even low exertion activities like stretching could protect brain cells from becoming damaged, as "it is well known that exercise increases both anti-inflammatory activity and release of nerve growth factors."

Laura Baker, a neuroscientist at Wake Forest School of Medicine and lead researcher of the study, said at the conference that these simple exercise routines "is doable for everybody." She explained how the study instructed the seniors to move for 30 to 45 minutes four times a week, and overall, each participant completed more than 100 hours of exercise.

81-year-old retired agriculture researcher Doug Maxwell of Verona, Wisconsin told the AP he joined the study with his wife, also 81, and they were placed in the stretching group. He said that, "We wouldn’t have done the exercise on our own,” and it has since inspired them to purchase electric bicycles to continuing exercising.

"Exercise needs to be part of the prevention strategies" for elderly people who are at-risk for developing Alzheimer's, Baker said.

LISTEN on the Audacy App
Sign up and follow Audacy
Facebook | Twitter | Instagram