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Exercise improves blood flow to the brains of older adults

December 6, 2013

More exercise leads to better brain function for older adults.

You’re never too old to start learning Tae Kwon Do. In fact, participating in martial arts training could actually keep your brain healthy and memory sharp as you age. A new study by researchers from the University of Texas at Dallas found that physical exercise is critical to helping the brains of older adults age more gracefully.

“Science has shown that aging decreases mental efficiency and memory decline is the number one cognitive complaint of older adults,” said Sandra Bond Chapman, founder and chief director of the Center for Brain​ Health at the University of Texas at Dallas. “This research shows the tremendous benefit of aerobic exercise on a person’s memory and demonstrates that aerobic exercise can reduce both the biological and cognitive consequences of aging.”

Exercise creates more blood flow to the brain

The study consisted of separating sedentary adults ages 57 to 75 into physical training and wait-list control groups. At the beginning the physical exercise regimen, mid-way through at 6 weeks, and post-training at 12 weeks, the researchers assessed cognition, resting cerebral blood flow and cardiovascular fitness.

Without getting into the technical specifics, the findings showed that the exercisers had improved blood flow to the anterior cingulate, which has been linked to superior cognition in later life, said Sina Aslan, Ph.D., a collaborator on the study. There were also higher levels of blood flow to the hippocampus, the key brain region affected by Alzheimer’s disease. Older Americans who get more physical activity may be able to achieve better brain health and memory skills, so why not try Tae Kwon Do?

“But I’m too old.”

Many older adults may use this excuse, but that’s all it is. One example of a success story of an older American using Tae Kwon Do to stay healthy is 63-year-old Ron Roe. He told his story to The Wall Street Journal about how he was able earn a black belt in nine years after starting class and the fact that he has better flexibility and balance than ever.

“Anyone my age can do it if they have the desire,” he said.

He added that while there are many younger students in his classes, instructors around the country are beginning to tailor their classes to older adults. Tae Kwon Do consists of a lot of different stretches, kicks and punches for self-defense, which can be just what older Americans need to get the right amount of physical activity.