Dementia is an Umbrella term used to describe a wide variety of neurodegenerative diseases. These can include: Alzheimer’s, Vascular Dementia, Huntington’s Disease, and Parkinson’s Dementia related to Lewy bodies. These conditions can happen to anybody however, they are more prevalent in the ageing population with most individuals experiencing symptoms after the age of 65. These early signs can be:
- Progressive and frequent memory loss
- Personality change
- Apathy and withdrawal
- Loss of ability to complete daily tasks
Exercise has many known benefits including reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes, strengthening muscles and bones, and also improving mental health. However, recent research suggests that regular exercise also appears to benefit Brain health as it is essential for maintaining blood flow to the brain and may even stimulate brain cell growth and survival. Studies have demonstrated that people who are physically active are less likely to experience a decline in their cognitive function and are at less risk of developing Dementia. The research is so promising worldwide that the World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends exercise on a regular basis to assist in preventing these cognitive diseases.
So, what is the right exercise? The simple answer is all of it. Aerobic, Resistance, Flexibility and balance exercises all contribute in improving our physical functioning and also our brain health. Therefore, it is recommended that an exercise regime involving all components be undergone by individuals wanting the most successful outcomes. Of course, a healthy well-balanced diet should also be implemented in preserving brain health. Dementia Australia suggest A number of dietary factors have been associated with a reduced risk of developing dementia. These include:
- Lower intake of saturated and trans unsaturated fats
- Higher intake of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats
- Higher intake of omega-3 fats
- Higher intake of some antioxidants and vitamins
- Higher intake of vegetables and fruits
- Moderate consumption of alcohol (with caution – too much alcohol poses a significant health risk)
So, it’s possible that the key to everlasting memories can be as simple as a healthy lifestyle.
Written by Michael Ceccarelli
Self-hugs – The New Depression Prevention! October 12, 2018
Most of us aren’t giving ourselves the same love and compassion as we give others; we need to start flipping the usual “love thy neighbour” expression. We are our own toughest critic and this may be leading us to depression. Recent research from Sydney-based researchers have found that excessive perfectionism is linked to depression, and self-compassion may be the answer.
Self-compassion is being kind to yourself and allowing yourself the same forgiveness you give others for your mistakes. There are little mistakes we make throughout the day, something like forgetting to buy milk – an uncompassionate thought would be “oh you idiot, how could you forget that?” Try swapping this thought for “easily done, you can grab it tomorrow morning”, and there you have self-compassion. There are also more subtle forms linked with perfectionism, people get lost in the fact that they could always do better and are critical of themselves when they cannot achieve this unattainable goal. If you catch yourself after a long work day feeling like you could have done better/worked harder/answered that extra email, then stop and tell yourself “you did well today, keep up the good work!” It not only may help prevent depression, but it has been linked to improved life satisfaction and compassion for others, leading to more meaningful relationships.
The self-compassion practice may seem a bit awkward and contrived at first, you may not fully believe the positive words that you are telling yourself as you’ve been conditioned to the negative. Just continuing to practice it, it will feel more sincere and you may gradually find your subconscious changing its tone.
If you think you may have a problem with perfectionism or self-criticism, have a try of the exercises from the following link (I’ve been doing daily mindfulness meditations and try to incorporate a compassion-based meditation once per week).
Written by Steph Folley
M. Ferrari et al. Self-compassion moderates the perfectionism and depression link in both adolescence and adulthood.PLOS ONE. Published February 21, 2018. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0192022.
Blow away the “brain fog” with these daily exercises! July 26, 2018
I want to start this blog with a short anecdote that prompted me into researching the effects of consistent (daily) exercise on alertness and brain function.
For a long period I was finding that how “on the ball” I was could differ greatly from day to day; some days I was switched-on and efficient whereas other days I felt slow, vague and distractible in my thoughts – sometimes referred to as a “brain-fog”. There were all manner of different explanations that I came up with to explain it: from random fluctuations in brain function, to stress, hormones, personal issues, diet and of course the amount of coffee I consumed. I’m a generally active person so exercise was not high on the list, however I was not taking into account that I was not exercising every day – rather I had a more inconsistent regime of exercising around 3 times per week.
It was only recently when I had a particularly good and consistent week of exercise (some form of exercise every morning) that I noticed that I also had a whole week of being “on the ball”. I was more efficient at work and more productive and sociable in the evenings. It clicked that the consistency of the exercise must be a factor in keeping yourself alert and switched on.
With a quick search the evidence that I found was substantial and fairly unanimous in the importance of every-day exercise for brain function. Most studies went by the 30-minutes of exercise per day principle. Firstly there were the short-term effects that I am likely experiencing on the days that I exercise. One of the simplest yet effective ways exercise was found to improve our focus is increased blood flow. As exercise increases our heart rate it therefore increases the amount of fresh oxygenated blood that is getting to our brain, hence improving its activity. It has also been found that our hippocampus, the part of our brain that is critical for memory and learning is highly active during exercise. In addition to this exercise induces short-term release of the “stress hormone” cortisol, which is in charge of improving our alertness and cognition. This short-term release is healthy compared to psychological stress that can cause long-term cortisol release, which can lead to depression.
Exercise was also found to reduce the stress response by lowering the reactivity of one of our body’s stress centres, the “HPA axis”.
It is clear that even just the short-term effects of regular exercise are worth getting off of our couches for, but it is really the long-term effects that are truly life changing. An overwhelming amount of research on consistent aerobic (cardio) exercise (30 minutes per day) shows that it improves neuron growth (learning), neural activity (switched-on-ness), stress coping, memory and improvements in brain structures (mental capacity). In the long term these reduce the risk of mental disorders such as depression, dementia, Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease.
I hope that this can be as much of a motivation to keep up exercise for you as it was for me. At a risk of going on a different tangent here is something that helped me put things in perspective – a lot of literature on self-effectiveness emphasises us to look at what is “important” rather than what is “urgent”. Important things are things that direct us toward our goals/make us happy/improve our effectiveness, whereas urgent things are the day-to-day tasks that need doing at some point. We see tasks like cleaning the dishes and sending off that email as urgent so exercise goes out the window. We need to step back and look at what should be the priority – with everything we have learned up, I think that those dirty dishes can wait another 30mins!
Carvalho A, Rea IM, Parimon T, Cusack BJ (2014). “Physical activity and cognitive function in individuals over 60 years of age: a systematic review”. Clin Interv Aging 9: 661–682.
Heinonen I, Kalliokoski KK, Hannukainen JC, Duncker DJ, Nuutila P, Knuuti J (November 2014). “Organ-Specific Physiological Responses to Acute Physical Exercise and Long-Term Training in Humans”. Physiology (Bethesda) 29 (6): 421–436.
Written by Stephanie Folley
Have you found your jam? June 20, 2018
Headphones check. Spotify check. That’s all we really need to get exercising these days. Most of us would not be caught without our smartphones within arms reach, earphones in and a playlist blasting in our ears while we exercise.
Winter Weight Gain May 8, 2018
With winter right around the corner and the weather cooling down many of us may notice a seasonal gain in weight during autumn and winter. There are a number of factors, which contribute to this, and ways to assist in reducing the likelihood of gaining weight.
One of the main reasons is due to seasonal affective disorder, which occurs at the same time each year as we are exposed to less sunlight when the days become shorter and cooler. It tends to go away toward the warmer months with daylight savings and longer days. This results in sadness, irritability, lack of interest in activities that normally bring pleasure, reduced concentration, fatigue and tiredness.
This dissatisfaction results in using comfort foods as a pick me up which usually includes high calorie energy dense foods that are sweeter or fattier. These high sugar foods lead to drops in blood sugar levels, resulting in you craving more energy. Therefore causing a vicious cycle of highs and lows in energy while storing the extra calories as fat.
The colder temperature also usually results in reduced physical activity as you are less likely to go for that walk after dinner, take the stairs or park further away in the car park.
Ways to counteract the potential weight gain include:
- Getting out in the sunlight during the day.
– Try to take walks during your lunch break. You’re killing two birds with one stone by performing exercise and increasing your sunlight exposure!
- Have low calorie comfort foods
– If you’re craving something sweet have fruit or use a less calorie dense alternative.
- Avoid buying the comfort foods all together!
– If it is out of your eye sight you will be less inclined to crave it.
- Book in for Exercise Physiology so you don’t miss out on exercise!
The Great Outdoors March 26, 2018
With the Easter break and school holidays around the corner, many of us are heading out to caravan parks and the river to experience a little bit of the great outdoors. It is not only a great time for us to unplug for the daily hustle and bustle of city life, engage in some R&R / outdoor activities and reconnect with our loved ones. The best way to do that you ask? Go camping!
Here are some reasons why camping could be really good for our mental / physical health:
1. Unplug from technology
The absence of cell phone reception / internet connection when we’re in out in the countryside is a very refreshing experience for us city dwellers. Research has shown that by disconnecting from technology, it helps reduce our level of anxiety and improves our quality of sleep. In addition, reduced screen time could help reduce neck pain and force us to get up and move more!
2. Better sleeping habits
A study by University of Colorado Boulder in 2013 showed that by following the sun’s schedule, our body allows us to follow its natural circadian rhythm and in turn allowing us to go to bed and wake up at a reasonable time.
City dwellers like us severely underestimate the benefits of spending time in the woods. Studies have found that by spending time outdoors not only helps reduce depressive symptoms, it can also help reduce obsessive, negative thinking.
The camping / outdoor experience would not be complete without a hike. It not only allows us to experience and be in awe of mother nature’s creations but also lets us burn some extra calories from all that extra Easter chocolate we consume.
Reduced screen time means increased face time with our loved ones. This gives us time and space away from daily stresses to reconnect and engage in conversations without any distractions.
6. New experiences
Every camping trip brings about new experiences or challenges which helps stimulate our brains and improve our mental health.
So, if you haven’t already made plans this Easter, why not plan a little day trip to the woods or even a camping trip?
– Written by Celine Tan
Plants and Us! February 23, 2018
As most of you probably already know, I have become quite the house plant fanatic, almost bordering on being obsessive. While researching plants and their care I came across some interesting facts about plants and us humans, which I thought I would share with you all.
- Did you know that Mother Earth actually has over 80,000 edible species of plants? And that 90% of food that humans eat come from only about 30 plant types overall?
- 70,000 species of plants are used for medicine. But only 1% of rainforest plants have been studied for medicinal purposes.
- 68% of plants are in danger of extinction due to deforestation and destruction of their natural habitat as well as climate change.
- Bamboo is the fastest growing plant in the world, with some types growing a meter in just one day.
- Figs are not always considered vegan. They are sometimes pollinated by a fig wasp, which can be trapped by the fig’s inwards facing flowers. The trapped wasp is then digested by enzymes in the fig.
- All cacti are succulents, but not all succulents are cacti.
- There is a succulent that is named after a donkey’s tail.
Written by Michelle Lee
It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas! December 20, 2017
It’s inevitable that many of us will over indulge in the naughty but nice Christmas festivities during the holiday period whether it be work shows, Christmas dinners or Friday frothies. But it is important to also maintain regular exercise habits over this festive season so we aren’t trying to lose extra weight post-holiday season.
Follow our festive fitness tips, including maintenance of exercise routines, time efficient exercise strategies and calorie saving ideas.
Training does not have to be as long or as intense as usual, performing a shorter or condensed amount of exercise can assist in maintaining fitness. Performing maintenance training can result in minimal or even no fitness losses, there can even be performance improvements by allowing your body to rest and recover over a short period of time. Just remember a little exercise is better than nothing!
You can also help others by giving the gift of exercise. Consider giving gifts that will get your family and friends moving. For example, kayaking, rock climbing, a basketball ring or even a football to kick around over the festive period.
Another tip is to get out and walk around the shopping centres instead of purchasing things online from the comfort of your couch. You will not only tick the presents off the list but also keep some fitness and burn some extra calories. Furthermore, you can park a few blocks away or at the back of the carpark to add in some extra walking.
Also when gathering your friends and family for Christmas functions try challenging them to bring a healthy dish alternative.
Remember to keep active over this period and don’t lose sight of your goals while enjoying this time with your friends and family. Merry Christmas from the team at CoreHealth!
Written by Courtney Hutton