Round 1: You Vs. Your Brain

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I have recently taken up boxing again. I have been working too much and sitting too long, too many days a week. There are also days where my brain seems too foggy without a valid explanation. And this is where I think many of us devote our energies. Explaining away the 'inevitable creep' towards senility. Well, I for one hope to fight that all the way.

Boxing isn't my choice because I want to fight. It happens to be one aerobic exercise that seriously pushes me to and often beyond by capacity. But it certainly does feel good to hit something!

Nonetheless the Internet and media in general are full of research that is supporting the notion of healthy body, healthy mind and recent research is pointing squarely at aerobic exercise that increases heart rates beyond that of going for a casual walk.

In one study. Joe Northey, a PhD candidate at the University of Canberra Research Institute for Sport and Exercise here in Australia, showed that when people ride a stationary bike, they experience increased blood flow to the brain, and within that blood are a range of growth factors that are responsible for cell growth and associated with improved brain function. “Considering exercise can also reduce the risks associated with common lifestyle diseases that impact the brain, such as high blood sugar and hypertension, it is further motivation to try to incorporate exercise as part of a healthy lifestyle,” says Northey.

Another study, published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, is not the first to suggest that exercise may help keep the brain healthy as we age. However, previous research asked adults to self-report their fitness levels, the new paper used an objective test for cardiorespiratory fitness—measuring people’s VO2 max, a measure of how much oxygen their lungs can utilise during intense exercise.

Multiple studies involving older adults with poor fitness levels have shown more deterioration of white matter in their brains, compared with their fitter peers. White matter deterioration was also linked with a decline in decision-making brain function among adults with early signs of memory loss. This suggests that regular exercise may slow cognitive decline and perhaps even dementia.

"White matter is comprised of millions of bundles of nerve fibers; it acts as the “computer cables” that connect various parts of the brain", says senior author Rong Zhang, neurology professor at the University of Texas Southwestern O’Donnell Brain Institute. “If those cables get deteriorated, so do the pathways of communication,” he says.

So it appears were all in the ring and our opponent is an aging brain as well as body. As the bell rings for the next round come out swinging and get that heart rate up because the real problem  is that the very brain we rely on to recognise the problem, is the problem.

Ding, ding!