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Aerobic exercise helps your brain too, says study – CBC.ca

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I run 10 kilometres three times a week. I do it as much to keep my mind sharp as to strengthen my heart and my body.

The beneficial effect on your heart of jogging, cycling or swimming is well-known. A study published last week in the journal Mayo Clinic Proceedings concludes that regular exercise is also good for your brain.  

Katharina Wittfeld and colleagues from the German Center for Neurodegenerative Disease studied 2,103 adults ages 21 to 84 years between 2008 and 2012. They evaluated aerobic fitness by measuring the peak oxygen uptake. They also tested the research subjects’ maximal power output while exercising on a bicycle ergometer. Those measures were designed to test that participants were doing enough aerobic exercise to make certain it was having a beneficial effect on the heart.

The researchers did MRI scans to assess the impact on the brain. The researchers found that increases in peak oxygen uptake were associated with increased volume of grey matter (brain tissue) as seen on MRI scans.

The most striking finding is that the parts of the brain most affected by exercise were those engaged in cognition or thinking rather than, say, movement. The other good thing about the findings is that exercise benefited research subjects of all ages, especially those over the age of 45.

The researchers say there are several potential mechanisms that might explain the findings. Studies have shown that physical activity increases the release of natural anti-inflammatory factors. Scientists have long believed that inflammation of brain tissue causes memory loss. Exercise also increases blood flow in the brain. Studies also show that aerobic exercise may also boost the body’s production of chemicals such as brain-derived neurotrophic factor. That might help the brain grow new cells and make new connections following injury and slow cognitive decline associated with aging.

Maximum power output, which was measured in the study, refers to exhausting activities that require intense working of the muscles. As the study by Wittfeld suggested, intense physical activities release chemicals from the muscles that in turn get the liver and other vital organs to produce chemicals that increase brain-derived neurotrophic factor in the brain.

Another possible explanation is that exercise doesn’t increase higher brain function but that higher brain function motivates people to exercise more. 

Several of the regions of the brain that were apparently affected by exercise may be relevant for cognitive changes in seniors. (Cathy Alex/CBC )

Other studies have concluded in general terms that exercise is good for brain health. At more than 2,100 participants, this study is one of the largest ever done looking at the benefits of exercise. This study is important because until now, few if any studies have indicated precisely what kinds of exercise might be of benefit. As well, this is the first study to show that cardio-respiratory fitness increases grey matter in the parts of the brain that are needed for memory, executive function and the ability to navigate. 

Currently, more than half a million Canadians have dementia, and current trends show the number is rising sharply. That makes me wonder just how much hope this study provides to people with dementia. Several of the regions of the brain that were apparently affected by exercise may be relevant for cognitive changes in seniors. These include the hippocampus, parahippocampal gyrus, temporal gyrus, fusiform gyrus, cingulate, and orbitofrontal cortices.

These findings correlate with some of the regions of the brain that researchers believe are affected in older people with cognitive impairment. Some of the regions of the brain with increased grey matter as described in this study line up with similar areas that are depleted in patients with Alzheimer’s disease.

Start moving

Still, the authors of an editorial that was published alongside the study said one must be careful not to suggest at this point that exercise will have any impact on people with Alzheimer’s disease. They did, however, say the research is “interesting.”

The take-home message is that moderate and regular exercise is good for your heart and likely good for your brain.

The standard recommendation is half an hour of moderate physical activity most days of the week, or 150 minutes a week. If you don’t already do that much, start with a few minutes a day, and increase gradually until you reach 30 minutes per session.

The best and most accessible activity is walking, but other moderate-intensity exercises like swimming, dancing, or racquet sports will do nicely. Household chores like raking leaves and shoveling snow are good provided they make you sweat and provided you do them in a way that does not put extra strain on the heart.

Other things you can do include eating healthy, losing weight as well as getting blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar under control.  

The study gives me lots of encouragement to keep on running. There is no better time than a new year to start moving.

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Ontario dog becomes first known to test positive for COVID-19 in Canada | News – Daily Hive

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An Ontario dog has tested positive for COVID-19 after a research study proved the possibility by placing the animal in an infected household.

According to the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, they had been notified of the confirmed case contracted by a Niagara region dog on October 23.

The dog was part of a research study “following the diagnosis of COVID-19 in several people in the same household,” according to the release by OMAFRA.

“This dog did not have any clinical signs of disease. The current understanding of COVID-19 is that the overall risk of infection and illness in most domestic animals is low.”

The release states that current evidence suggests that mink, ferrets, cats, and (rarely) dogs can be infected with the virus; however, there is still “uncertainty” surrounding what this means for animals and how the virus behaves through different animal species.

“As a precautionary measure, people with COVID-19 symptoms, or those who are self-isolating due to contact with a COVID-19 case, should restrict contact with their pets, livestock or any other animals, and exercise the same infection control precautions they would around people,” read the release.

“Pets belonging to owners infected with COVID-19 should be kept indoors as much as possible and contact between these pets and anyone other than their designated caretaker should be avoided as much as possible.”

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Quebec gym, yoga and dance business owners vow to reopen despite COVID-19 measures – Global News

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A coalition of about 200 Quebec gym, yoga, dance and martial arts business owners say they intend to reopen their doors on Thursday in defiance of provincial health rules.

The businesses are calling on Quebec Premier François Legault to lift COVID-19 restrictions that forced fitness facilities to close this month.

In a statement, they say their facilities contribute to the overall physical and mental health of the population and they were not the source of COVID-19 outbreaks.

They say the lockdown measures will force them out of business after they’ve made significant investments to comply with health measures during the pandemic.

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READ MORE: Quebec gym owners and athletes in coronavirus red zones prepare for 2nd shutdown

The owners say they intend to reopen across the province but will back down if health authorities can demonstrate by Thursday that their operations have led to outbreaks.

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On Oct. 8, Quebec introduced new public health measures for regions under the province’s highest COVID-19 alert level, shuttering gyms, putting limits on team sports and making masks mandatory for high school students.

Last week, Legault hinted that some red zone restrictions would remain in place even as the initial 28-day lockdown in Montreal and Quebec City come to an end on Wednesday.

Legault, Health Minister Christian Dubé and Dr. Horacio Arruda, Quebec’s director of public health, are to hold a news conference this afternoon.


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Quebec gym owners, athletes in COVID-19 red zones brace for 2nd shutdown


Quebec gym owners, athletes in COVID-19 red zones brace for 2nd shutdown

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Coalition of fitness centres threatens to reopen regardless of Quebec's red zone restrictions – CBC.ca

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A coalition of Quebec gyms, yoga studios and other recreational activity centres are threatening to reopen at the end of the week, even if the province extends the 28-day partial lockdown.

Such facilities have been closed since Oct. 8, as part of a series of measures imposed by the government to contain the spread of COVID-19.

Premier François Legault has scheduled a news conference for 5 p.m. today, where he is expected to extend many of the measures imposed earlier this month in red zones.

Owners of fitness facilities say they have spent thousands of dollars to ensure their locations are safe and that their clients depend on exercise to keep physically and mentally healthy.

In a statement issued Monday, the group — which says it numbers more than 200 — says they will reopen Oct. 29 regardless of what the government decides.

“All the sanitary measures in force will be respected,” the statement said.  

“If the government by then can prove to us, through studies, that we are the source of the outbreak, we will reverse it.”

Question of mental and physical health, owners say

Dan Marino and Christian Ménard, two of the men representing the coalition, both have shared social media posts publicly that provide misleading information about COVID-19.

For example, Marino has shared posts on his Facebook page that question the effectiveness of masks and minimize the dangers of the novel coronavirus. Ménard has asked people to sign a petition against Quebec’s mandatory mask law.

Speaking to reporters on Monday, Marino said It would be unacceptable for gyms to stay closed.

“I have heard from too many people who are in distress,” said Marino who owns Mega Fitness Gym in Quebec CIty. “It’s mental and physical health.”

Dany Laflamme, owner of Nova Gym, a martial arts centre in Quebec City, said customers are calling every day.

“It’s truly sad. My customers are my family,” he said.

Christian Ménard, who runs Pro Gym Montréal, said his clients are eager to get back to work on their bodies and minds. (Ivanoh Demers/Radio-Canada)

Gyms have been the site of outbreaks in Quebec and neighbouring Ontario.

But regardless of the risk, the coalition says customers want to get back to their favourite gym or studio.

Tanya de Montign told CBC Montreal’s Daybreak that the gym closures have had a substantial impact on her clients’ mental health.

She owns the Idolem yoga studio in Brossard, and when she closed her doors yet again earlier this month, she said “I had people leaving my studio crying.”

“I had people actually telling me they didn’t know how they would end up being able to get through these 28 days without us,” she said.

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