In a recent study1, researchers found that exercise generates new brain cells in mice who have Alzheimer’s. A quote:
“Beneficial effects on cognition can be blocked by the hostile inflammatory environment present in the brain of patients with Alzheimer's disease and that physical exercise can "clean up" the environment, allowing new nerve cells to survive and thrive and improving cognition in the Alzheimer's mice. In our study we showed that exercise is one of the best ways to turn on neurogenesis.”
The researchers sought to achieve the same results produced by exercise using drug and gene therapy. This was met with limited success. Comparing the two approaches they found:
“We found the key difference was that exercise also turned on the production of brain-derived neurotrophic factor or BDNF -- known to be important for the growth and survival of neurons -- which created a more hospitable brain environment for the new neurons to survive."
"It is not enough just to turn on the birth of new nerve cells, you must simultaneously 'clean up' the neighborhood in which they are being born to make sure the new cells survive and thrive. Exercise can achieve that."
The takeaway: Exercise results in neurogenesis (new neuron cells), and more BDNF creates a hospitable environment for those new cells to survive. So what type of exercise produces the most of both? According to one study2 comparing continuous exercise versus high intensity training (HIT):
“The HIT protocol might represent an effective and preferred intervention for elevating BDNF levels and potentially promoting brain health.”
HIT is what we do at our Austin Strength Training facility. Our trainers have experience working with people of all ages and fitness levels. You can wait for effective drug and gene therapies to be developed to combat cognitive decline, or you can combat cognitive decline before it is too late.