Saturday, June 26, 2010

Regular Exercise is the Fountain of Youth

We have all heard doctors say that daily exercise and a healthy diet are never bad for you and are most often the easiest-to-do remedies for a range of medical problems from exhaustion to sleep deprivation to depression.

In our greenest society yet we have all but thrown plastic bags into extinction, our gas tanks are often on double duty trying to save our credit card debt, and everything organic is “in,” from bread to wine to the clothes on our backs, but for all that we are doing to save the environment, what are we doing to save ourselves? New studies show that exercise may just be the cure-all we’ve been looking for all along.

Even though the gym is a sore subject for a lot of people, others relish the adrenaline high from lifting weights, pushing through that extra mile on the treadmill, or watching the news while trudging the elliptical machine.

Aerobics has helped many an older, retired person keep up with a daily routine as well as maintain socialization in the wake of moving to a new location or from the loss of a loved one.

A few months ago we ran a story about the possibility of exercise helping Alzheimer’s patients and further studies are now emerging.

New research from the Beckman Institute at the University of Illinois shows the benefits of physical activity can help to support and strengthen brain functions such as task coordination, working memory, planning, and the ability to multi-task.

Cognitive neuroscientist Professor Art Kramer, main author, looked over past research that showed that enough regular exercise to make a person out of breath has improved brain tissue and thought sharpness.

With age brain matter deteriorates and in people with Alzheimer’s disease, brain cells are killed faster and induce cognitive impairment. Kramer notes that both patients with Alzheimer’s and those without the disease have both recorded benefits.

After six months of aerobic exercise studies, some found that the brain function was declined and it may be possible for the brain to continue to grow and redevelop what it may have lost. Other studies show that a higher exercise rate equals a lower brain deterioration scan.

With even more tests to do, Professor Kramer attests, “we can safely argue that an active lifestyle with moderate amounts of aerobic activity will likely improve cognitive and brain function, and reverse the neural decay frequently observed in older adults.”

Now after hearing the positive effects that exercise can have on Alzheimer’s disease, you might still want to put off that gym membership or recreation center class, but another new study should get you in those running shoes.

The United States’ most disabling condition to date is arthritis with millions of Americans suffering each day. A University of Missouri study found that relief may be on the horizon after all. The study involved teaching arthritis patients exercise habits in order to decrease pain and increase physical function compared to a group of patients who did not participate in the informational exercise routines that the researchers called “interventions”.

Other benefits were reported, clearer mental health and better muscle strength levels. Lead author of the study from University of Missouri, Professor Vicki Conn, associate dean of research at the Sinclair School of Nursing says of the program, “Educational components can be incorporated into exercise programs in any setting that are currently suggested by physicians, nurses and other care providers.”

Data collected from 4,111 volunteers throughout 28 different studies, showed results from people afflicted with different kinds of arthritis including knee, rheumatoid, and osteoarthritis. The data was only collected from the studies that looked at physical activities reported after the exercise interventions were concluded.

The researchers conclude that all exercise programs should stage information interventions to improve the health and benefits of each patient’s treatment over more-invasive forms of relief like over the counter medications or prescription pain killers. Doctor’s orders of a glass of wine over dinner, a plate of healthy greens and a regular exercise regimen doesn’t sound as bad as crippling arthritis that causes your joints to ache or a fast-deteriorating brain that cripples the rest of your life. Maybe a few rounds on the track, a few laps in the pool, or invigorating yoga might be beneficial after all.

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