Here's your brain on exercise, computer use

Mayo Clinic researchers have shown that two things decrease the risk of dementia: exercise and computer use.

The two combined have an even better effect, the scientists found.

In a related study this week, Scientific American Reported that aerobic exercise builds the brain's hippocampus and actually improves memory in older adults.

Scientific American reports that research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences "shows that at least some parts of the brain can be saved from atrophy — and even built up — by relatively modest amounts of activity late in life."

In a randomized controlled study of 120 older adults, those who got aerobic exercise actually increased the size of their hippocampus.


"The hippocampus shrinks in late adulthood, leading to impaired memory and increased risk for dementia," the authors write in the Proceedings article .

Hippocampus size decreased in folks in the control group who didn't exercise as much.

"These theoretically important findings indicate that aerobic exercise training is effective at reversing hippocampal volume loss in late adulthood, which is accompanied by improved memory function," the researchers say.

Maybe I can still come up with radical ideas because I walk to and from work each day, keeping my mind fresh. Here comes one: As we gain more knowledge about prevention of disease and health improvement, why not incorporate that knowledge into our daily lives?

If I owned a company or led a school, I'd encourage my workers or students to do a morning, mid-day or afternoon walk around the building. I'd also invest in walking desks at work and desk-free classrooms, which Mayo research has also suggested is beneficial. 

Imagine the potential impact upon heart disease, obesity, diabetes and dementia. What if your boss didn't care if you stopped part way through your day and took a walk for 15 minutes — in addition to your normal daily breaks?

And imagine, bosses, if your workers actually wanted to do that, thus increasing productivity and decreasing health costs over time.

Here's why they might want to: Doing so can decrease the risk of dementia and other illnesses. So get up and move, let others move and if you're impaired or in a wheelchair, move what you're able. It's good for your brain.

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