Brain Health and Physical Activity

Our Ancestors May Have Held the Secret to Better Brain Health…

It turns out that while our early ancestors spent their days out in the wilderness hunting and foraging for food, they may also have been keeping their brains sharp. Researchers at the University of Arizona have found a connection between the highly active lifestyle that was prevalent in those ancient days and the prevention and treatment of Alzheimer’s disease and other age-related diseases.

Our ancestors covered long distances—mixing moderate and intense bouts of physical activity throughout the day—as a means of survival. In sharp contrast, today’s average American starts his/her day by getting ready for work or school, then sits in a car to travel to the office where you’ll likely spend hours in meetings or in front of a computer, only to retire home to catch up on the latest series on Netflix. This is how most of my days go. For the most active among us, exercise might consist of an hour at the gym three or more days a week and perhaps a few short walks sprinkled in throughout the day. Any activity is good, but that level of activity doesn’t completely erase the damage we do to our bodies during the other 23 hours in the day which are largely spent sitting in a desk chair or at the dining room table, reclining on the family sofa or sleeping.

An obvious connection can be drawn between today’s sedentary lifestyle and a host of prevalent modern-age health problems like obesity and chronic illness, but how do low levels of activity affect our cognitive abilities? In the mentioned study, they say that the amount of exercise that our ancestors engaged in reduced the burden of a genotype that leads to a high risk of Alzheimer’s disease, cardiovascular disease and increased mortality. As a result, the researchers stress the importance of exercise as a potential disease prevention and intervention tool.

Beyond reducing the risk of disease and injury, the role that movement and exercise play in a person’s cognitive performance cannot be underestimated. Many research studies have proven that engaging in regular physical activity keeps our brains in top form, helping us to focus, recall, and think more clearly. Moving more frequently and for longer periods of time can help fight off disease and boost our brain function. Just some food for thought next time you settle in to binge watch Game of Thrones or pass up an opportunity to bike. Be active not only for all the physical benefits, but for your brain health too.