Researchers have also documented clear links between aerobic exercise and benefits to other parts of the brain, including expansion of the prefrontal cortex, which sits just behind the forehead. Such augmentation of this region has been tied to sharper executive cognitive functions, which involve aspects of planning, decision-making and multitasking—abilities that, like memory, tend to decline with healthy aging and are further degraded in the presence of Alzheimer’s. Scientists suspect that increased connections between existing neurons, rather than the birth of new neurons, are responsible for the beneficial effects of exercise on the prefrontal cortex and other brain regions outside the hippocampus.
We derived a healthy lifestyle score based on information on five lifestyle factors—diet, smoking, physical activity, alcohol consumption, and body mass index (BMI).
Our findings suggest that promotion of a healthy lifestyle would help to reduce the healthcare burdens through lowering the risk of developing multiple chronic diseases, including cancer, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes, and extending disease-free life expectancy. Public policies for improving food and the physical environment conducive to adopting a healthy diet and lifestyle, as well as relevant policies and regulations (for example, smoking ban in public places or trans-fat restrictions), are critical to improving life expectancy, especially life expectancy free of major chronic diseases.
The average life expectancy in the world has increased substantially in the past few decades. The aging of the population has led to a high prevalence of chronic diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer. Although people live longer, older individuals often live with disabilities and chronic diseases. People with chronic diseases including cancer, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes have a shorter life expectancy than do their peers without these chronic conditions. Estimates of the loss in life years due to these chronic conditions range from 7.5 to 20 years, depending on the methods used and the characteristics of the study population.
Modifiable lifestyle factors including smoking, physical activity, alcohol intake, body weight, and diet quality affect both total life expectancy and incidence of chronic diseases. Studies have shown that smoking, inactivity, poor diet quality, and heavy alcohol consumption contribute up to 60% of premature deaths and 7.4-17.9 years’ loss in life expectancy. Nevertheless, little research has looked at how a combination of multiple lifestyle factors may relate to life expectancy free from the major diseases of diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer.
Therefore, promotion of adequate volumes and intensities of physical exercise (i.e., approximately 3 months of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise, with 2–3 sessions/week lasting not less than 30 min) represents an inexpensive and safe strategy for boosting BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor) release that may preserve or restore cognitive function.
Taken together, the currently available data seemingly confirm the existence of a positive relationship between physical exercise and circulating BDNF levels, both in the short and long term, and also support the beneficial impact of training programs for amplifying the acute BDNF response.
At the moment, about two-thirds of Americans do not meet the standard exercise guidelines of about 30 minutes a day of moderate exercise, such as walking.
These findings might suggest that, if we adjusted our schedules and turned off the TV, phone or computer, most of us would have plenty of time to work out.
Almost all of the respondents — whatever their income, age, gender or ethnicity — reported about five hours a day of leisure time. Men tended to have more free time than women, older people more than the young, and African-American women the least of all. But no group reported less than about four and a half hours a day of free time.
Following the important publishing of “The Benefits Of Intermittent Fasting” study by Johns Hopkins in the New England Journal of Medicine on December 26, 2019, the 60-year old editor of Boomers-Daily.com (“B-D”) will launch, participate in, and document a decade-long, 18-Hour Intermittent Fasting Diet on December 30, 2019. The following protocol will be followed:
All daily food consumption will be between 10 am and 4 pm
Diet will be followed 7 days a week
High fiber, nutrition-dense foods will be favored
Gluten-free and Lactose-free foods will be favored
Eating will NOT be calorie-restricted
Bedtime target of 7:30 to 8:30 pm (or earlier) every night
7-8+ hours of sleep per night a PRIORITY
Early morning vigorous exercise daily of 1 – 1 1/2 hours targeted
All readers of Boomers-Daily.com are encouraged to communicate with B-D and launch their own 18-hour Intermittent Fasting Diet (the 6-hour eating period can be varied 1-2 hours later or earlier). Please email firstname.lastname@example.org to join the study, comment or inquire about this or your own 18-Hour Intermittent Fasting Diet. We will be looking to start an online chat room and other online platforms to increase the size, scope, visibility and transparency of the study over the next decade.
In our own study of more than 7,000 middle-aged to older adults in the U.K., published in 2019 in Brain Imaging and Behavior, we demonstrated that people who spent more time engaged in moderate to vigorous physical activity had larger hippocampal volumes. Although it is not yet possible to say whether these effects in humans are related to neurogenesis or other forms of brain plasticity, such as increasing connections among existing neurons, together the results clearly indicate that exercise can benefit the brain’s hippocampus and its cognitive functions.
In fact, a growing body of research suggests that exercise that is cognitively stimulating may indeed benefit the brain more than exercise that does not make such cognitive demands. For example, Gerd Kempermann and his colleagues at the Center for Regenerative Therapies Dresden in Germany explored this possibility by comparing the growth and survival of new neurons in the mouse hippocampus after exercise alone or after exercise combined with access to a cognitively enriched environment. They found an additive effect: exercise alone was good for the hippocampus, but combining physical activity with cognitive demands in a stimulating environment was even better, leading to even more new neurons. Using the brain during and after exercise seemed to trigger enhanced neuron survival.