You’ve heard it on news programs, talk shows, reality television, and probably your doctor as well: daily exercise is good for you and helps prevent many health problems. But did you know that it helps prevent memory loss as well?
One of the triggers for dementia is inflammation in the brain, which is often caused by a flare-up in the immune system. A person’s immune system becomes more active when their body perceives an attack from an infection, virus, or other illness. This is a natural and beneficial response in keeping the body healthy. However, it’s not good to have your immune system in a highly active mode all of the time, because this may lead to more physical problems, not less, due to the constant inflammation caused by this activity. In older people the immune system is more easily triggered, and there is more of a tendency for it to remain in the “highly active” mode. In addition to the general health problems this causes, the immune cells in the brain (microglia) produce compounds called cytokines that inflame the brain cells, and if this continues, eventually damages the brain cells, leading to potential memory loss.
The good news is that exercise can help prevent this damage. A recent University of Colorado study showed that regular exercise prevents the overproduction of cytokines, and so also prevents brain damage and memory loss. This is particularly important with older people, but no matter what age you are, the benefits of exercise on your brain – and therefore your memory skills – are well worth the time you take to fit an exercise routine into your daily schedule.