We’ve learned about the widely known benefits of exercise. It enhances and maintains your overall health and wellness as well as physical fitness. It can also help in increasing body growth and development, strengthening muscles, weight loss, preventing cardiovascular diseases and aging.
But if you think that’s all there is to exercise, you are largely mistaken. A new study reveals it may benefit the brain function in older adults, and prevent or delay the onset of dementia.
Brain Effects of Exercise
In a paper published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Diseases, researchers revealed that exercise was associated with a change in the blood flow in key regions in the brain. This, in turn, resulted in an improved cognitive performance in a group of healthy older adults and a group diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment (MCI).
The researchers had two groups of older adults go through an exercise training program. The program consists of 30-minute sessions of moderate-intensity treadmill walking or aerobic exercises, four days per week for a total of 12 weeks.
One group was composed of those with mild cognitive impairment while another was composed of healthy older adults without MCI. Before and after the program, the participants underwent aerobic fitness testing, neuropsychological assessment, and an MRI scan.
Both groups yielded positive results. The healthy group had increased cerebral blood flow in the frontal cortex after 12 weeks, which significantly improved their performance on cognitive tests.
On the other hand, the MCI group had decreased cerebral blood flow in the left anterior cingulate cortex and left insula after 12 weeks. This resulted in their improved performance on a test used to measure memory and cognitive health.
How Reduced Blood Flow Increases Brain Function
According to Dr. J. Carson Smith, associate professor in the Department of Kinesiology in the University Of Maryland and one of the authors of the study, when we begin to experience subtle memory loss, the brain responds to the crisis by trying to “compensate” the inadequate brain function by increasing the blood flow.
However, while increased cerebral blood flow can be beneficial in normal brain situations, in those diagnosed with MCI, it gives the opposite effect. Dr. Smith states that there is evidence that it may bring further memory loss to those in the very early stages of Alzheimer’s Disease.
Dr. Smith explains the result of the study:
“A reduction in blood flow may seem a little contrary to what you would assume happens after going on an exercise program. But after 12-weeks of exercise, adults with MCI experienced decreases in cerebral blood flow. They simultaneously improved significantly in their scores on cognitive tests.”
These findings provide evidence that exercise can improve brain function in older adults—whether or not their cognitive abilities are already in decline.
Dr. Smith added that that exercise can positively affect “biomarkers of brain function in a way that might protect people by preventing or postponing the onset of dementia.” He highlighted how exercise influences the brain’s neural networks which are linked to memory loss and amyloid accumulation—both signs of MCI and Alzheimer’s.
When we breathe in polluted air, it irritates our respiratory system and we may experience breathing difficulties. In the long run, exposure contaminated air and smoke produced by industries and vehicles can lead to decreased lung function, diseases such as asthma, bronchitis, emphysema, and possibly other cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, as well as cancer. Now another health problem might be added to the list—childhood obesity.
Impacts of Obesity in Children
Looking at the many severe diseases linked to air pollution, obesity seems a little insignificant. However, this condition should not be overlooked.
Obesity affects up to 15-20 percent of children worldwide. Aside from the various health hazards linked to obesity such as diabetes, high cholesterol, asthma, sleep apnea, gallstones, and cardiovascular diseases. Overweight and obesity also affect the psychological being of children.
Several studies reveal that childhood obesity can lead to low self-esteem, anxiety, and depression. This is commonly due to social exclusion, negative stereotypes, and bullying. In fact, some experts described being overweight as “one of the most stigmatizing and least socially acceptable conditions in childhood.”
Obesity and Air Pollution
Researchers at the Barcelona Institute for Global Health (ISGlobal) claimed that exposure to air pollution, especially at school, might be liked with a higher risk of overweight and obesity during childhood. In a study published in Environment International, researchers investigated 2,660 children ages 7-10 years old from 39 schools in Barcelona under the BREATHE project.
The team collected data on the children’s height and weight to calculate their body mass index (BMI). They also assessed the levels of pollution in the school areas. Among the pollutants they measured are nitrogen dioxide, elemental carbon, particle matter, and ultrafine particles. They examined the pollutants twice; during a week in summer and another week in winter.
Jeroen de Bont, a researcher at ISGlobal and first author of the study concluded that children exposed with medium to high levels of the measured air pollutants had “a higher risk of obesity and overweight as compared to those exposed to lower levels.”
It was also revealed that many children were exposed to air pollution levels above the World Health Organisation (WHO) recommended levels. To be specific, more than 75 percent were exposed to unsafe levels of particle matter. While more than 50 percent were exposed to the above-recommended level of nitrogen dioxide.
The researchers, however, highlighted that their study has limitations. One of the reasons is because their analysis was done with only estimates of exposure levels. Martine Vrijheid, ISGlobal researcher and study coordinator explained:
“The study has however some limitations, which means that the results are to be cautiously interpreted. Being a cross-sectional study, we only have data at one time-point, and we do not have enough data to establish the nature of the association. To draw more solid conclusions, we need new longitudinal studies that follow the study participants over time.”
But how can air pollution possibly affect obesity? Researchers explained the underlying mechanisms on the idea. Previous animal studies reveal that air pollution can induce insulin resistance, oxidative stress, and systemic inflammation. These are known factors that contribute to obesity.
In the study in particular researchers identified that ultrafine particles were the pollutants that had the most effect in increasing the risk of overweight or obesity. “This may be explained by the fact that the ultrafine fraction of the particles deposit in greater number and deeper into the lungs than do large-size particles, having more capacity to reach the circulation and induce oxidative stress and inflammation,” the researchers wrote.
“Why am I not losing any weight?” There are situations that we might find ourselves asking this magical question. Sometimes we might even choose to give up. Why? Just why… even with your intense exercise and diet nothing seems to work? Is this really scientific?
Aside from exercise and diet, there are many other factors why you might not be losing weight. It is important to know your conditions especially your overall health, and more importantly, control them. Then you can charge again with your weight-loss efforts.
Here are some of the possible reasons why you aren’t getting fit.
Your Eating Schedule
Dieting is not just eating the right food in the right amount. You should also consider the right time. Some people might think that eating less or skipping breakfast is a way to shed some fat. However, it is not.
Breakfast is very important in getting the energy you need to last through the day. There are also studies which claim that skipping breakfast heightens the risk of obesity. This is because you would be famished later in the day causing you to eat more during lunch or dinner,
On the other hand, having a snack close to bedtime is a big no. Your body will find it difficult to burn those. Eating dinner about two or three hours before you go to bed is the right timing. If you really can’t get over without a midnight snack choose something with low calories.
Metabolism seems like a cliché answer. That explains why there are those lucky people who don’t seem to get fat even when pigging out and those people who can’t get fit even when starving themselves. However, let’s go deeper into metabolism. Your metabolism can be affected by many factors such as lifestyle, aging, genes and even gender.
Suddenly changing from an active to a sedentary lifestyle might slow your metabolic rate. Same with aging, it’s a natural process we cannot stop. Every decade, your metabolism slows down for about 2-8 percent. This might be due to decreased muscle mass.
There are also people with genes which make them burn fat slower. If you want to boost your metabolism, be active and stay away from low-calorie diets.
Yes. Some health problems might also be the reason why you aren’t losing pounds. For example, a problem with your thyroid. Hyperthyroidism or an overactive thyroid might lead to weight loss but hypothyroidism causes weight gain due to the build-up of water and salt in the body.
There is also a condition called Lipoedema, which causes abnormal build-up in particular areas like legs, thighs, bum, and arms. Lipoedema can affect up to 10 percent of women. However, it is still poorly understood and often misrecognized as obesity, which leads to improper treatment. Stress, blood sugar, blood pressure, and hormonal disorders might also be a cause of unexplainable weight gain.
Another reason might be the medicines you are taking. Some drugs for allergies, depression, diabetes, birth control, epilepsy, high blood pressure, and schizophrenia might sabotage your weight loss effort. It is better to ask the doctor if there is a side-effect on taking these drugs.