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Exercise keeps our brains healthy – but does cognitive decline lead to physical decline?

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Matthieu Boisgontier’s strategy for keeping fit is a little unorthodox: He buys a chocolate bar – then doesn’t eat it. By training himself to rein in his automatic impulses, he figures he’ll get better at resisting the lure of the couch and getting out the door for his daily half-hour run.

According to new research by Boisgontier, a neuroscientist and health researcher from France recently hired by the University of Ottawa, that strategy may have long-term implications for how his physical and mental capacities decline as he ages – but not necessarily in the way you’d expect.

For years now we’ve been hearing about the power of exercise to keep our brains healthy. Research in both animals and humans has shown that physical activity maintains blood flow to the brain and raises levels of growth factors that promote the formation of new neurons. A study from the Ontario Brain Institute estimated that people who are very physically active are almost 40 per cent less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease.

But Boisgontier and a colleague from the University of Geneva, Boris Cheval, believe that may be only half the story.

In 2018, they published a study that used EEG brain imaging to explore one of the great riddles of public health: why people fail to exercise regularly even when they know how beneficial it would be. By flashing images of people exercising or lounging in hammocks, they showed that it takes extra neural effort to resist the lure of being sedentary. In other words, we’re wired to be lazy.

Based on those findings, they began to wonder whether declining cognitive function might be a cause, rather than just a consequence, of age-related declines in physical activity.

To test this hypothesis, they analyzed data from more than 100,000 adults between the ages of 50 and 90 in 21 European countries, each of whom had completed cognitive assessments and reported their physical activity levels five times over a 12-year period. The results will be published in the June issue of the journal Health Psychology.

As expected, those with the lowest scores on the cognitive test also tended to get the least exercise. But the most interesting finding was how the scores changed over time: The inexorable declines in cognitive function generally preceded declines in physical activity, suggesting that the former contributed to the latter.

There was also evidence, albeit weaker, that physical declines are followed by cognitive declines. As a result, Boisgontier said, “our results support the idea that cognitive abilities and physical abilities are part of the same circle that can be either a virtuous one or a vicious one.”

The new results join a long-standing debate about the underlying causes of age-related decline, says Emilie Reas, a neuroscientist at the University of California San Diego. It’s possible, for example, that socioeconomic factors or lifestyle changes such as retirement could lead to both physical and cognitive decline in parallel.

“Even if cognitive impairment does limit physical activity, this doesn’t refute the fact that exercise is good for the brain,” she said. “This evidence is quite solid and shouldn’t change the advice to stay active throughout life, especially in older age.”

But if cognitive function itself is a risk factor in that potentially vicious cycle of decline, that suggests other possible counterattacks. Cheval stresses the importance of sustaining cognitively engaging activities such as socializing and reading and modifying the environment to make movement – taking the stairs rather than the elevator, say – a default option that doesn’t require extra cognitive effort.

Boisgontier, meanwhile, has used his don’t-eat-the-chocolate-bar strategy to ingrain the habit of a half-hour daily run. At first, convincing himself to lace up his shoes and get out the door took a lot of mental effort. But eventually, he said, it became automatic. “I don’t really need any brain resources to engage in this physical activity any more” – precisely, he hopes, what will make the habit stick as he gets older.

Alex Hutchinson is the author of Endure: Mind, Body, and the Curiously Elastic Limits of Human Performance. Follow him on Twitter @sweatscience.

Source: – The Globe and Mail

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Edited By Harry Miller

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COVID-19: Vancouver bar patrons may have been exposed to virus – Vancouver Sun

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Vancouver Coastal Health is alerting bar patrons who were at Vancouver’s Hotel Belmont a week ago that they may have been exposed to the novel coronavirus.

The VCH says individuals who tested positive for COVID-19 were at the hotel’s bar and nightclub on both June 27 and 29.

Bar-goers who patronized the Hotel Belmont, located at the corner of Nelson and Granville streets, on either of those nights are advised to monitor themselves for 14 days.

“As long as they remain healthy and do not develop symptoms, there is no need to self-isolate and they should continue with their usual daily activities. If you have no symptoms, testing is not recommended because it is not accurate or useful,” the VCH said in a statement.

“If you develop any of these symptoms of COVID-19, please seek COVID-19 testing and immediately self-isolate. Please call ahead and wear a mask when seeking testing.”

The VCH said there is no known risk to anyone who were at the Hotel Belmont outside these two dates.

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30 Vaughan mushroom farm workers test positive for coronavirus: York health – 680 News

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York Region Public Health says 30 workers at a Vaughan-area mushroom farm have tested positive for the coronavirus.

The health unit said the “workplace cluster” is at the Ravine Mushroom Farm, located on King Vaughan Road, which is in between Weston Road and Pine Valley Drive. They said they were first made aware of the situation on June 27.

Twenty-four of the individuals who tested positive for the virus are residents of the region, the health unit said in a notice on their website.

The outbreak is considered large, said Dr. Karim Kurjii, the medical officer of health for the region in a YouTube update Monday.

“We have one large outbreak at a farm and a few cases each at several farms in York Region,” he said. “These have been proactively identified with our hospital partners, in particular, South Lake Hospital.”

He added that public health inspectors have visited the sites.

“Our public health inspectors have been into these farms in order to give infection prevention and control advice to the farmers, as well as ensure the living conditions are adequate,” he said.

Kurjii did not list what other farms were experiencing these outbreaks.

York health said they conducted risk assessments on the infected individuals at the Vaughan site and determined that the risk to the general public is low.

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London-Middlesex may enter Stage 3 of reopening near the end of July: MLHU – Globalnews.ca

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London-Middlesex is on its way to enter Stage 3 of Ontario’s novel coronavirus reopening plan, according to London’s chief medical officer of health.

Dr. Chris Mackie said Monday that he’s hopeful the region will be given the green light to move ahead with the province’s reopening plan within the next few weeks.

“I think (we) could see a move to Stage 3 over the next two to three weeks. I would not be surprised at all to see that,” said Mackie.

Read more:
Dr. Chris Mackie no longer CEO amid management changes at Middlesex-London Health Unit

“I also think that it’s likely the province will choose to do a regional approach as they did with the Stage 2 reopening.”

Mackie also commented on Leamington and Kingsville in Essex county entering Stage 2 as of Tuesday, saying it is a sign that “this region is really getting COVID-19 under control.”

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According to the Province of Ontario, in Stage 3 the province will consider opening more workplaces, dine-in restaurants, and indoor and outdoor recreational facilities, including playgrounds.

Read more:
154 new coronavirus cases, 0 deaths in Ontario; total cases at 35,948

Casinos, fitness facilities and amusement parks are also on the list, all with added public health measures in place.

London-Middlesex has not seen any new cases of COVID-19 for two days in a row. The last reported death in the region related to the virus was June 12.

As of Monday, there are 630 confirmed cases in the region, which includes 57 deaths and 515 recoveries.






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Coronavirus: Ontario health minister says there’s ‘hope’ for move to stage 3 soon


Coronavirus: Ontario health minister says there’s ‘hope’ for move to stage 3 soon

© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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