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Latest Medical Research Highlights the Benefits of Physical and Mental Fitness

September, 2016

Arthur Jones, NautilusThere are plenty of good reasons to be physically active, especially for seniors, including reducing the odds of developing heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. Recent studies at Harvard Medical School and other leading medical institutions prove how exercise changes the brain by helping maintain memory and thinking skills.

Most people who exercise report post exercise feelings that seem to melt away stress and worries.  Current medical research confirms that these feelings are not just imagination, but instead demonstrate how the brain reacts to exercise.  “What benefits the body, benefits the brain,” says Dianna Purvis Jaffin, PhD, director of the Center for Brain Health’s Brain Performance Institute.

The Journal of Neuroscience reports how exercise increases the brain’s resilience and capacity to respond to mental challenges, a concept known as “mental fitness,” explains study author Richard Maddock, MD, a research professor at UC Davis Medical Center.

Harvard Medical SchoolExercise creates mental fitness by stimulating the growth of healthy brain cells and the growth of new blood vessels in the brain.  Harvard medical research further indicates exercise improves mood and sleep and reduces stress and anxiety. This is important because problems in these areas frequently cause or contribute to cognitive impairment.

Wayne Westcott, PhD., author and American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) editorial consultant writes “how all age groups, especially seniors can benefit from strength training and cardiovascular exercise, as demonstrated by the YMCA Nautilus Senior Program. Exercising less than one hour, two to three days a week, senior participants reported looking, feeling and functioning better physically as well as mentally.  Significantly, over 90% of study participants continued to exercise after study completion.”

Dr. Scott McGinnis, a neurologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and an instructor in neurology at Harvard Medical School concludes, “Even more exciting is the finding that engaging in a program of regular exercise of moderate intensity over six months or a year is associated with an increase in the volume of selected brain regions.”

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