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Is exercise the key to treating an aged brain?


We all know that exercise is good for us — that’s why we continue to be tenacious when it starts to feel really difficult.

Physical activity is important for maintaining heart health, well-being, and a healthy weight.

But exercise also benefits your brain, and potentially your eyesight.

Physical activity is often prescribed as a treatment to slow the progression of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease.

So how accurate is something that occurs primarily in the muscles that ultimately affects the brain?

And what if we could bottle those benefits and prescribe them as medicines?

How Exercise Helps the Brain

Exercise increases blood flow to the brain. Therefore, it increases the oxygen supply. It has been shown to improve learning and memory and delay age-related cognitive impairment.

The brain is filled with millions of cells interconnected by complex networks that are essential to its function.

Exercise helps build more brain cells and maintain connections between them.

Older women and men jogging on the street
Studies show that exercise can improve memory and slow the progression of cognitive decline.(((Getty Images: pixelfit).

What may surprise you is that some of these processes and benefits may be noticeable.

When light enters the eye, it is detected by cells in the retina.

These cells It converts light into a signal and sends it to the brain, eventually forming the image you see every day.

Because the retina is an extension of the brain, experts believe that any effect that exercise causes in the brain can also occur in the eye.

Some evidence suggests regular exercise Reduces the incidence of age-related macular degeneration, Or AMD, the main cause of blindness in developed countries.

It may also reduce the severity of the disease. Studies show that people who are more mobile have better eyesight.

It has also been found that decreased physical activity correlates with increased risk factors for AMD, such as the presence of large deposits of debris in the retina known as drusen.

There is much more work to do, but preliminary studies suggest that animals that exercise daily have better visual function than animals that tend to sit down.

How does it work?

Breakthrough research We have found that when we exercise, our muscles emit a chemical message that is delivered to the rest of the body.

This is a bit like the endocrine system. A collection of organs that emit signals to mediate and control a series of mechanisms throughout the body.

An example is the thyroid gland, which helps grow and consume energy. The pancreas releases insulin to help control blood sugar levels. The adrenal glands control libido and stress.

Understanding how muscles behave in the same way, that is, sending chemical messages, provides great clues as to how exercise can help the whole body, including the brain.

Image of male torso and arms lifting weights
Exercise releases chemicals such as endorphins and serotonin that improve mood.(((Getty Images: Kiyoshi Hijiki).

Take advantage of physical activity

The chemical messages evoked by exercise are carried around the body by lipid particles.

Researchers believe in the messages within these particles, which may hold the key to understanding why exercise is so good for the whole body.

Revealing the molecular information transmitted during physical activity may provide a roadmap for treatments that can slow or stop the progression of neurodegenerative diseases.

These usually appear in old age and get worse as people get older. We are talking about poor eyesight, mobility, and memory.

Blurred man hugging baby
Age-related macular degeneration blurs central vision and makes facial recognition, reading, and other daily activities difficult. (((Supply: Joshua Tutan).

Exercise appears to be important in preventing age-related cognitive decline, but physical activity is not always a sustainable option for older people. Man.

However, if we can separate the information that muscles are sending, we can theoretically prescribe a molecular message of exercise to people who may not be physically able to do it.

Think of it as “exercising on a pill.” It provides the molecular benefits of physical activity without actually increasing your heart rate.

Exercise “with tablets”

At the molecular level, there are many similarities between neurodegenerative diseases. This means that if one treatment is discovered, it can have a significant impact on other treatments.

Of course, the creation of drugs that offer some of the molecular benefits of exercise does not mean that people who can exercise should stop.

The great benefits of regular physical activity go far beyond the chemical signals, far beyond what researchers wanted to capture “in tablets.”

Dr. Joshua Chu-Tan is a postdoctoral fellow and associate lecturer at the Australian National University, specializing in prescribing the molecular message of movement for retinal degeneration.

He is also one of ABC Top 5 scientists in 2021..

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