DES MOINES, Iowa - We all know exercising builds a better body. Now, there's evidence it builds a better mind too.
"If you rest, you rust," explained Alan Bernard, personal trainer and founder of Active Aging Fitness.
Studies show aerobic fitness reduces brain cell loss in the elderly. It can also protect against diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol - all risk factors for Alzheimer's disease and other dementias.
"What’s good for the heart is good for the head," Bernard said. "Of people who had Alzheimer's or other dementias, autopsies are showing that 80-percent of those people also had a cardiovascular impairment."
The blood vessels in the brain are among the most intricate in the body. The more blood flow to the brain, the more oxygen and nutrients it receives.
"The strength of your muscles and the opening up of your cardiovascular system ultimately creates a situation that the brain feeds off of."
But that's not the only benefit.
"Also, exercise in and of itself requires you to think about the movement, not only from a safety stand point, the correct form, but also the actual movement itself."
Bernard suggests complex, multi-planar movements, like alternating front and lateral raises.
"This exercise forces your brain to remember what you’re doing. So you have a mind function going at the same time as your muscles are getting worked."
Bernard also recommends mixing up everyday, run-of-the-mill exercises. Instead of performing a typical jumping jack, try a seal jack or a front jack.
"Once again, you’re making your brain work differently than what it’s used to."
Alternating steps on the BOSU Ball with a bicep curl will get all your cylinders firing and improve your balance.
"Oh boy, you can always tell your weak side," said Erin while balancing on the BOSU.
So remember, when you're working out, you're not just building a better body. You're building a better brain too.
"Exercise in essence is brain food."
Five things to do to avoid dementia:
- Healthy diet
- Maintain healthy weight
- Avoid tobacco
- Limit alcohol