Try This Activity to Prevent Memory Loss, Say Researchers

By on October 17, 2013
This one activity is recommended by doctors as a way to fight obesity, depression, and even type 2 diabetes–but now research shows it could even protect against memory loss.

Everyone knows it as exercise–and now a team of researchers from the Dana-Farber Institute and Harvard Medical School say it elevates a special molecule called FNDC5, which may protect against cognitive decline.

“Our results indicate that FNDC5/irisin has the ability control a very important neuroprotective pathway in the brain,” says Dr. Bruce Spiegelman, a researcher from the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. “What is exciting is that a natural substance can be given in the bloodstream that can mimic some of the effects of endurance exercise on the brain.”

The study, which was published in the journal Cell Metabolism, examined the effects of endurance exercise on rodents by having them run on an exercise wheel for a period of 30 days. In a previous study led by Spiegelman, they discovered that FNDC5 was released into the bloodstream during muscular exertion, but wanted to investigate its effects more closely.

After the 30 days had elapsed, researchers then studied how exercise affected how FNDC5 was released–and the results were shocking.

“Here we show that FNDC5, a previously identified muscle protein that is induced in exercise and is cleaved and secreted as irisin, is also elevated by endurance exercise in the hippocampus of mice,” says researchers. “Importantly, peripheral delivery of FNDC5 to the liver via adenoviral vectors, resulting in elevated blood irisin, induces expression of BDNF and other neuroprotective genes in the hippocampus.”

The discovery that exercise leads to increased BDNF activity isn’t something to ignore–released naturally, this chemical helps preserve brain cells while promoting the growth of new synapses between nerve cells in the brain, which can lead to improved memory and cognitive function.

Bottom line: Exercise isn’t just great for managing your weight; it could also protect your brain.

How to Start Exercising More

We all know it: Exercise is good for your health. And with new evidence showing that it could also prevent memory loss–a good thing for those at risk for Alzheimer’s disease–there is no reason why you shouldn’t be working out now.

That’s easier said than done, though, with fatigue, work obligations, and poor motivation levels getting in the way of a good workout.

“The most important thing with starting an exercise program to combat fatigue is to establish a regular pattern of exercise,” says Pete McCall, an exercise physiologist for the American Council on Exercise. “Even if they don’t have time in their schedules on a particular day, I still want my clients to find activities, such as taking the stairs or parking in the spot farthest away from their destination, to help increase their daily activity levels.”

So what are the best ways to integrate exercise into your busy lifestyle? Simple, says McCall: Try integrating it into the errands you do regularly. For instance, if you usually do errands everyday not too far from your home, consider switching to a bicycle instead of using your car to get from place to place. Some recreational activities, such as basketball or tennis, also count as moderate exercise–provided you do it for at least 30 minutes.

Readers: What are some other ways you keep exercise a priority?


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