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  • Writer's pictureEmmanuel Ofori

How Diet and Exercise Can Have a Positive Impact on Your Brain

Healthy Lifestyle and Cognitive Aging

Maintaining good health through a healthy diet and regular exercise is well-known and supported by numerous studies. The latest research provides concrete evidence of the substantial benefits of nutrition only, exercise only and the supercharged combo the two provide for the brain, potentially even reversing some age-related effects.


In a study reported in the journal Neurology, led by James Blumenthal, a psychiatry professor at Duke University Medical Center, suggested that consistent exercise and improved diet can enhance cognitive performance. The study involved 160 participants aged 55 and older, initially exhibiting cognitive skills similar to individuals in their 90s. These results show that even in older individuals already displaying signs of cognitive decline, it’s never too late to have favourable outcomes using diet and exercise. 


Participants were divided into four groups: one engaged in aerobic exercise, another followed a low-sodium diet, a third combined exercise and dietary changes, and a fourth, the control group, received educational sessions on enhancing brain health. The study involved a three-month supervised exercise program, followed by three months of unsupervised activity at home. The diet group adhered to the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH), focusing on reducing salt and increasing fibre for better blood pressure and heart health.


Blumenthal emphasizes that it's never too late to benefit from exercise, even for those with cognitive impairments presenting. The participants that were initially sedentary, displayed cognitive decline but had at least one heart disease-related risk factor however, did not have dementia. There is a strong link between heart health, blood circulation, and cognitive skills, as the brain relies on oxygen-rich blood for its activities. Exercise provides that boost to blood flow to the brain and the body. 


While groups focusing on diet or exercise alone did not show significant cognitive improvements, Blumenthal suggests the combined approach might be more effective. After six months, the group that both exercised and changed their diet demonstrated the most significant cognitive improvements, resembling cognitive abilities of 84-year-olds with a nine-year improvement in test scores.

The studies highlight the potential of lifestyle changes, specifically exercise and diet as key tools to improving overall well-being and possibly delaying the onset of dementia. So let’s get moving, eat right and if you don’t know where to start, consult your local fitness professional. 

Emmanuel Ofori - eMotivates

Your friendly neighbourhood fitness professional

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