By Gabe Sanders PhD, NSCA-CSCS
As we age, our bodies change and many of these changes can negatively affect our neurological connections in our brain and throughout our body. Simply put, our ability to think and react is not the same as it was when we were teenagers.
Combat age-related changes. Be physically fit.
However, there is a way to combat age-related changes that occur to our neurological system. The way to potentially combat the “neurodegeneration” as researchers call it, is to be physically fit by regularly exercising and eating a healthy balanced diet.
To achieve a high level of physical fitness one must consistently exercise and engage in healthy lifestyle habits whereas physical activity is characterized by simply moving around.
Physical activity alone does not protect body against aging
Furthermore, physical activity alone does not appear to protect your body against aging quite like physical fitness.
In an interesting study, researchers found that individuals with higher levels of fitness also had better “functional connectivity” within their neurological brain network. This means that enhanced physical fitness can improve your body’s ability to delivery oxygen to your muscles and even your brain.
Optimal oxygen availability improves the way your entire body functions and can significantly improve cognitive ability. In other words, you can think and react better and more efficiently.
The process of becoming physically fit is multifaceted and requires one to choose healthy lifestyle habits. It is also important to engage in high intensity exercise, eat a balanced diet, and participate in regular activity outside of your exercise routine. While physical activity is healthy for you and it is beneficial to move around throughout the day, it will not lead to optimal physical fitness levels.
Below are a few tips to obtaining a high level of physical fitness
Exercise five days per week for 60 minutes.
Engage in both strength training and aerobic exercise
Limit your sugar intake to 25 grams or less per day
Eat fruits and vegetables daily
Drink more water
Be as active as possible after your exercise session
*Before starting an exercise and nutrition regimen, consult with your healthcare provider and/ or registered dietitian.
For more examples of other variations/exercises look under Multimedia-VDF Exercise Tips
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Voss WF, Weng TB, Burzynska AZ, et al. Fitness, but not physical activity, is related to functional integrity of brain networks associated with aging. Neuroimage. 2016; 131:113-125.