How Exercise Helps the Aging Brain

Research is showing more and more the relationship between exercise and brain health. Older people who get regular cardiovascular exercise have larger brain volume in certain areas, better memory, and lower risk for dementia compared to their more sedentary counterparts.
Collateral Circulation
Other studies have shown that people who get more cardiovascular exercise in middle age have less chance of having a stroke as well. The study found that aerobic exercise increases what is called collateral circulation. This is a process whereby arteries that are usually closed begin to open up to reroute the blood supply when other arteries become clogged, especially coronary arteries that supply blood to the heart, and cerebral arteries that supply blood to the brain.
Stroke is the fifth leading cause of death in the United States.
As we age, the number and size of blood vessels declines, and our collateral circulation declines as well. But studies done on mice showed that those middle-aged mice who exercised regularly and continued physical activity as they aged had roughly the same number of collateral blood vessels as much younger rodents.
On the other hand, those mice that did not exercise lost their collateral vessels and had reduced circulation.
Moreover, an elderly mouse that had exercised regularly had comparatively less brain damage from a stroke. Why? Because the increased number of collateral blood vessels that had formed continued to supply the brain with blood even though others had become blocked. Aerobic exercise also increases the number of a particular type of molecule that helps blood vessels perform better and stay in better condition. And this also helps to reduce the risk of having a stroke.
Implications for Workers
These findings naturally have significant implications for older workers. They point out the absolute necessity of aerobic exercise if older workers want to maintain their sharpness and level of performance. The evidence of the research has reached a critical mass and can no longer be ignored. Exercise can no longer be considered optional, but as something that is absolutely essential to maintaining the basic integrity of our health and well being.
For this reason, workers need to incorporate some type of physical activity into their daily regimen, and this needs to become a priority. Companies need to recognize the importance of exercise as well to the well being of workers and incorporate more of it into the workday as well.
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