Exercise | Men's Health | Fitness and Nutrition | Mental Health

Fix Your Brain

Every day I have patients who come to me asking what they should take to help prevent memory loss or to treat depression or “brain fog” – a loss of ability to concentrate fully. Though people often come to me looking for a magic pill, there is one prescription that is more proven, consistently helpful and accessible than any pill, prescription, or over-the- counter supplement. It’s called EXERCISE. It turns out that aerobic exercise slows the loss of gray matter- the part of the brain that atrophies as we age. This is just one way in which exercise keeps us mentally young. Scientists have found that anaerobic exercise, such as working out with weights, also stimulates the creation of new brain cells in the part of the brain responsible for memory and learning – the dentate gyrus (part of the hippocampus).

 

Neuroplasticity

Many people think that the brain stops growing by adulthood, but new nerve cells continue to be generated in the hippocampus throughout our lives. Exercise can help stimulate the growth of such cells, which are essential to learning and memory. In fact, a recent study showed that aerobic exercise increases levels of two neurotransmitters, GABA and glutamate, low levels of which are associated with depression. Other studies have shown actual expansion of gray matter after regular exercise.

 

Prevent Dementia

It is well established that exercise reduces the risk of heart disease and stroke, both of which are associated with dementia. One recent study from the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease showed that any type of exercise, including gardening, walking or biking decreased risk of Alzheimer’s by a whopping 50%, even without regard to impact on heart disease or stroke.

People spend enormous resources investigating and purchasing supplements that have far less evidence supporting their use in preventing neurological decline than does simple exercise. Staying physically active can help your brain stay active too!

 

Wondering what others areas of your health could use your attention? Consider taking my Optimal Men’s Health quiz. It’s designed to help you determine your next best step to getting healthier and closer to winning.
Myles Spar, MD, MPH is board-certified in Internal Medicine and in Integrative Medicine. As a clinician, teacher and researcher on faculty of two major medical centers, he has led the charge for a more proactive, holistic and personalized approach to care that focuses on cutting edge technology and preventative care. Dr. Spar has traveled with the NBA, presented a TEDx Talk, appeared on Dr. Oz, and been featured in publications such as the Men’s Journal and the Los Angeles Times.

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