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Keep Your Brain Fit With Exercise.

Updated: May 28, 2023

Reference: Slowing Neurodegeneration With Exercise | The Institute for Functional Medicine

Maintaining cognition and brain fitness is a priority for many patients that we see, and exercise is one of the strategies that has been shown to optimize both mitochondrial and cognitive function, decelerating cognitive decline & neurodegeneration.

Physical & Cognitive Benefits

A 2019 meta-analysis assessed 48 studies that compared the effects of exercise on both physical function and cognitive function in older adults (60 years of age or older) and suggested that exercise training has a significant benefit, improving both functions in this population.

Other recent meta-analyses and controlled trials have found that several different types of physical activity, including the following, improve attention, executive function, and memory.

  • Both low to moderate and high intensity exercise

  • Short-term interval training and aerobic exercise

  • Social dancing

  • Multimodal physical exercise like circuit training

  • Mind-body exercises such as tai chi, yoga, and qigong

Mitochondrial Health

One component of exercise benefits on brain health is the optimization of mitochondrial function. Aging has been associated with a decrease in specific mitochondrial functions.

In addition, inflammation of the brain, oxidative stress, and mitochondrial dysfunction have all been linked to neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease (AD), Parkinson’s disease (PD), and multiple sclerosis (MS). Research suggests that physical activity may have an anti-aging impact through the improvement of mitochondrial functions and by contributing an anti-inflammatory effect.

Exercise may protect neurons against dysfunction and degeneration as the neurons respond to activity by activating signaling pathways. Both endurance activity and resistance exercise may induce an increase of circulating neuro-trophins such as brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), which stimulates mitochondrial health.

Appropriate exercise interventions

A 2020 review suggested that exercise training as an adjunctive therapy for Parkinson's Disorder & Multiple Sclerosis

improves both motor disorders, including balance and risk of falls, and non-motor disorders, such as cognitive function and quality of life.

Cardio-Respiratory Fitness

Cardio-Respiratory Fitness (CRF) is the most powerful predictor of human health and mortality. This quote below is from Dr Georgia Torres

If you have a CRF of less than or equal to 6 METS, this should have you raising the red flag, both personally, and with your doctor because your chance chronic illness development increases between 41% and 56% .The objective you should set is to achieve a CRF of greater than or equal to 10 METS. This is where the magic health benefits happen. If you are then able to increase this by even 1 MET, the health benefits continue to increase by 13%-21% per MET improvement over and above 10 METS.

Takeaways & Brain Health Strategies

  1. Personalizing a comprehensive treatment strategy that includes an appropriate exercise program is part of a Functional Medicine approach to optimizing brain health.

  2. From improving neuro plasticity and preserving brain function to enhancing quality of life, exercise is an important part of a patient’s Personalized Nutrition & Lifestyle Intervention Plan

  3. A Functional Medicine approach also includes multiple lifestyle factors, including exercise, nutrition, sleep, and relationships.


Are you ready to change your life today? Book your FREE discovery call with Functional Medicine Practitioner Jenny Hague.

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