Tag: exercise

The Best Exercise for Ageing Muscles

I just rode a 26 kilometre cycle challenge. It was tough and I found it really difficult. I said to myself afterwards, gutted that I didn’t do as well as I expected, but gutsy that I gave it a go…what about exercise for ageing muscles?

    I just rode a 26 kilometre cycle challenge. It was tough and I found it extremely difficult. I said to myself afterwards, gutted that I didn’t do as well as I expected, but gutsy that I gave it a go.

I read this article from the New York Times, March 23, by Gretchen Reynolds and it made me feel a whole lot better that I am doing my body and mind a great favour as I keep at the exercise – and as it turns out cycling is a pretty good option for older people!

“The toll that ageing takes on a body extends all the way down to the cellular level. But the damage accrued by cells in older muscles is especially severe, because they do not regenerate easily and they become weaker as their mitochondria, which produce energy, diminish in vigour and number.
A study published this month in Cell Metabolism, however, suggests that certain sorts of workouts may undo some of what the years can do to our mitochondria.

Exercise is good for people, as everyone knows. But scientists have surprisingly little understanding of its cellular impacts and how those might vary by activity and the age of the exerciser.

So researchers at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., recently conducted an experiment on the cells of 72 healthy but sedentary men and women who were 30 or younger or older than 64. After baseline measures were established for their aerobic fitness, their blood-sugar levels and the gene activity and mitochondrial health in their muscle cells, the volunteers were randomly assigned to a particular exercise regimen.

Some of them did vigorous weight training several times a week; some did brief interval training three times a week on stationary bicycles (pedaling hard for four minutes, resting for three and then repeating that sequence three more times); some rode stationary bikes at a moderate pace for 30 minutes a few times a week and lifted weights lightly on other days. A fourth group, the control, did not exercise.

After 12 weeks, the lab tests were repeated. In general, everyone experienced improvements in fitness and an ability to regulate blood sugar.

There were some unsurprising differences: The gains in muscle mass and strength were greater for those who exercised only with weights, while interval training had the strongest influence on endurance.

But more unexpected results were found in the biopsied muscle cells. Among the younger subjects who went through interval training, the activity levels had changed in 274 genes, compared with 170 genes for those who exercised more moderately and 74 for the weight lifters. Among the older cohort, almost 400 genes were working differently now, compared with 33 for the weight lifters and only 19 for the moderate exercisers.

Many of these affected genes, especially in the cells of the interval trainers, are believed to influence the ability of mitochondria to produce energy for muscle cells; the subjects who did the interval workouts showed increases in the number and health of their mitochondria — an impact that was particularly pronounced among the older cyclists.

It seems as if the decline in the cellular health of muscles associated with ageing was “corrected” with exercise, especially if it was intense, says Dr. Sreekumaran Nair, a professor of medicine and an endocrinologist at the Mayo Clinic and the study’s senior author. In fact, older people’s cells responded in some ways more robustly to intense exercise than the cells of the young did — suggesting, he says, that it is never too late to benefit from exercise.”

Of course it is never too late! So there you go, exercise is both fun and healthy, plus something like cycling gets you out and about in the fresh air and beautiful scenery, and for me the best part is it’s a solo activity where you are always trying to improve, yet best done with mates!

A neuroscientist says there’s a powerful benefit to exercise that is rarely discussed

Exercise was profoundly transforming my brain — for the better….
Wendy A. Suzuki writes: ‘When I was about to turn 40, I started working out regularly after years of inactivity. As I sweated my way through cardio, weights, and dance classes, I noticed that exercise wasn’t just changing my body. It was also profoundly transforming my brain—for the better.

The immediate effects of exercise on my mood and thought process proved to be a powerful motivational tool. And as a neuroscientist and workout devotee, I’ve come to believe that these neurological benefits could have profound implications for how we live, learn and age as a society.

Let’s start with one of the most practical immediate benefits of breaking a sweat: exercise combats stress. Exercise is a powerful way to combat feelings of stress because it causes immediate increases in levels of key neurotransmitters, including serotonin, noradrenalin, dopamine and endorphins, that are often depleted by anxiety and depression. That’s why going for a run or spending 30 minutes on the elliptical can boost our moods immediately—combatting the negative feelings we often associate with chronic stressors we deal with every day.

In my lab, we have also demonstrated that exercise improves our ability to shift and focus attention. Even casual exercisers will recognize this effect. It’s that heightened sense of focus that you feel right after you’ve gotten your blood flowing, whether it be a brisk walk with the dog or a full-on Crossfit workout. These findings suggest that if you have a big presentation or meeting where you need your focus and attention to be at its peak, you should get in a workout ahead of time to maximize those brain functions.

But my favorite neuroscience-based motivation for exercise relates to its effects on the hippocampus—a key brain structure that’s critical for long-term memory. We all have two hippocampi: one on the right side of the brain and the other on the left. The hippocampus is unique because it is one of only two brain areas where new brain cells continue to be generated throughout our lives, a process called adult hippocampal neurogenesis.

Studies in rodents demonstrated that increased levels of physical exercise can result in improved memory by enhancing both the birth rate and the survival of new hippocampal brain cells. Exercise encourages the long-term growth of hippocampal cells by immediately increasing levels of a key growth factor in the hippocampus called Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF. Now, when I exercise, I imagine BDNF levels surging in my hippocampi, encouraging all those new hippocampal cells to grow.

All this should serve as a powerful motivator for regular physical activity. But the immediate and long-term benefits of exercise on the brain have even bigger implications.

Just consider how the educational system might be altered if we acknowledge exercise’s ability to brighten our mood, decrease stress, and improve our attention span and memory. The growing evidence that exercise improves these key brain functions should encourage schools around the world to increase—not decrease—students’ physical activity. Not only would this help students to better absorb everything from history lessons to chemistry experiments, they’d be a lot happier too.

The positive brain-based effects of exercise for education are just as relevant for very young children. The growing popularity of outdoor preschools are a promising sign that this message is starting to get through.

These brain effects of exercise also have implications for our search for that magic “smart” pill we hope will make us more productive, successful, and—if you believe the Bradley Cooper film “Limitless”—a lot sexier as well. What if the real magic does not come in the form of a pill, but in the form of an exercise regimen?

That’s exactly what the neuroscience research suggests. In fact, my lab is focusing on identifying how we can use exercise to optimize brain function for people of all ages, fitness levels and abilities. If regular exercise becomes routine for the vast majority of children and adults, we could have a population that’s not only healthier and less stressed, but also more productive.

The good news doesn’t end there. Recent findings have suggested that the brain’s hippocampus is also involved in giving people the ability to imagine new situations. Since we know that exercise enhances the birth of new hippocampal brain cells and can improve memory function, this discovery suggests that exercise might be able to improve the imaginative functions of the hippocampus as well.

This idea has not yet been tested in people. But the hypothesis raises the exciting possibility that exercise could make students more imaginative at school and adults more creative at work, with broad benefits for society as a whole.

It is also worth noting one of the most profound long-term benefits of exercise on the brain. That is, the longer and more regularly you exercise through your life, the lower your chances are of suffering from cognitive decline and dementia as you age. Part of this effect can be attributed to the build-up in the numbers of healthy young hippocampal cells as you exercise over the years.

Granted, this is a very long-term benefit that may not be seen for decades to come. But if more people were to join the gym this month and actually stick to it, more of us will be able to avoid debilitating cognitive decline, which could save society billions of dollars as we enter old age. This problem is even more relevant for countries with particularly large aging populations, including the US, Japan and Germany.

In these ways, neuroscience gives us a framework to understand exercise as a tool for better education, increased productivity in the workforce and combating cognitive decline. It’s time for us to stop using the looming prospect of beach season as the motivation for exercise—and instead shift the conversation to a discussion about how staying active can change the way we live.’

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