How exercise improves brain health

Last week I mentioned some specific exercises targeted to PD symptoms (see HERE and HERE)… today I want to share WHY exercise is so important for brain health.

New Research out of the Dana-Faber Cancer institute and Harvard Medical School (Spiegelman & Greenberg, Cell Metabolism 2013) shows that endurance exercise, such as distance running or cycling, releases a protein (FNDC5) that improves brain health while promoting the growth of nerves associated with cognition.

Alzheimers and Exercise

In laboratory rats, PGC-1α (which is also found in humans) led to improvements in protein FNDC5 and Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factors (BDNF). PGC-1α is thought to coordinate the gene response to exercise,  blood pressure and development of obesity.

Exercise stimulates BDNF expression in the hippocampus, the part of the human brain associated with memory and learning. In this study, specific improvements in awareness and memory recall was demonstrated. BDNFs are also responsible for creating new brain connections (neurons, synapses)

Memory is Enhanced by Exercise

Rich Exercise Regimens Promote Cognitive Health

So, keep moving! much love.

Other reference:

http://www.ibtimes.com/exercise-improves-brain-health-could-lead-new-alzheimers-parkinsons-treatments-1424338#.Ul35Vb9PDvQ.twitter

images from bodbot.com

Parkinson’s Apps

Last week I introduced the idea of using a smartphone to detect Parkinson’s (biomarkers, see link HERE), inspired by Max Little’s Parkinson’s voice initiative. This week I want to share some of the apps available to people with Parkinson’s disease…

Medication Tracker: You’ve got the best pill tracker available sitting right in your pocket. Download these two apps for iPhone and Android to manage your daily regime, set reminders and record dosage taken. For Android systems, we fielded this recommendation from Twitter follower, @yopd.

Puzzles: UnBlock Me (AndroidiPhone) and Hidden Object (Android) came recommended to us from our Twitter community. “As a recent PD, I use all the puzzle games I can. Hidden Object is a timed hidden object game [that I use],” shared Twitter follower Rod. UnBlock Me is a similar puzzle game where you try to move a red block out of the center of the board.

Twitter: I use this application EVERY DAY to build community, share resources, and learn what’s new in the Parkinson’s community. It can also help Parkinson’s symptoms. keeping your fingers (and brain!) moving! Follow organizations like @ParkinsonsBC@MichaelJFoxOrg, National Parkinson Foundation or ME (@kaitlyn_roland) to stay up-to-date on research news and advice, as well as engage with the Parkinson’s community.AndroidiPhone

Charity Miles: Raising money for Parkinson’s research is as easy as a walk around the block with this app. For every mile you walk, run or bike with the Charity Miles app, the charity of your choice earns money and awareness. Don’t just take our word for it, Team Fox member and Twitter user @RyansHope raved about the app. “[Charity Miles] keeps me moving which helps manage my symptoms,” he said. AndroidiPhone

Parkinson’s Toolkit (National Parkinson Foundation, Inc.): This free app helps you navigate physician visits and covers key issues you should discuss with your physician, like symptoms, planning, diagnosis, treatment options and billing information (iPhone).

PD Home Exercises: is a video app that have more than 50 exercises you can follow along to at home covering all range of movement and mobility… it also includes a metronome and vibration for cueing training! (iPhone)

Memory, notes, lists and organization: Evernote is amazing for capturing details of your day, organize items from your shopping lists to your travel itinerary. The best part? You can access your notes from any device – mobile phone, tablet or PC because the information is stored in your personal cloud. I use this all the time to store ideas, note for later, and to-do lists!

What are some of your favourite apps – that either help you organize your life, or add some fun to your day?? Please share in the comments below! Happy app-ing! much love.

sources:

http://mashable.com/2013/02/04/baby-boomer-apps/?ncid=edlinkusaolp00000008

https://www.michaeljfox.org/foundation/news-detail.php?smartphone-apps-to-help-you-manage-parkinson&utm_source=social&utm_medium=twitter&utm_content=patientprofiles&utm_campaign=smartphoneapp

http://parkinsonscureresearchfunding.wordpress.com/2013/02/19/phone-apps-to-help-manage-your-parkinsons/

Tutorial: meditation 101

Being in the present moment is a meditation practice.

There is a challenge in sitting still in meditation and watching the activity of the brain/mind. Anytime you sit with the intention and willingness to be mindful, transformation will happen. At first, you want to bring stability to the mind, perhaps by focusing on one thing, such as the breath (note: you can count your breaths in groups of 10; restart once you reach 10 or lose count). Eventually expand your focus/awareness to encompass bodily sensations and thoughts. Typically the first insight meditators have is, ‘Holy crap! I think all the time!’ By practicing meditation, you start to observe the way your thoughts move and change, and you can develop a more subtle awareness of your experience.*

kaitlyn-roland-yoga-meditation

Health benefits of meditation primarily focus on increasing the relaxation response (parasympathetic nervous system) and allows us to  “rest and digest.” … and this leads to boosting the immune system, improving digestion, improving sleep, and increasing cognitive function. This helps your relax more throughout the day. Meditation decreases the likelihood of reacting negatively to stress… for example, you might stop overeating/drinking.

More Reasons to meditate:

  1. Dull the Pain! Meditation training cuts pain perception in half (J Neurosci 2011) and makes pain less unpleasant because brains are busy focusing on the present moment, and anticipating the pain less, blunting its emotional impact (J Pain, 2010).
  2. Improve your sex life! Meditation helps bring thoughts into the present moment, and can enhance a woman’s sexual experience (less self-judgemental chatter!) (J Psychosomatic Medicine, 2011)
  3. Problem-solving! Meditations helps apply switching strategies for problem-solving and getting out of habitual patterns… it breaks the cycle and enables you to look at things with a fresh perspective (PLoS One, 2012).
  4. Boosts mental toughness! Regular meditation improves mood and working memory, which allows for short-term retrieval and storage of information. Meditation helps individuals stay alert and in the moment without becoming emotional (J Emotion, 2010).
  5. Emotional regulation! Meditation improves feelings of empathy and benevolance (PLoS One, 2008).
  6. Improve your attention span! Meditation practitioners are better able to make fine visual distinctions and sustain visual attention during a demanding tasks (Psychological Science, 2010).
  7. Get a bigger brain! Long-term meditators have larger amounts of gyrification (i.e., folds) of the brain’s cortex than people who don’t meditate. The extra folds may allow faster processing of information (Neuroimage, 2011; Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 2012).

How do you find ways to bring meditative moments into your day? Share some of your meditation experiences in the comments below. much love.

*Adapted info from: Kripalu Thrive Blog

building brain muscles -or- practice makes perfect

When you practice learning something new, you’re building new neural pathways in your brain. The more intense the practice, the stronger and more functional those neural pathways, and the better you can play the piano or the more likely you are to make a three-pointer with your non-dominant hand.

Fortunately, old dogs CAN learn new tricks, and as you get older your brain can continue to build new pathways and get stronger, even if it’s at a slower pace than when you were younger. To make sure your brain stays toned and ready to fire you need EXERCISE! You can protect prefrontal and temporal gray matter volume and forge new neural pathways with daily physical activity!

Happily, this brain-building technique also can help folks who develop a neurodegenerative disease like Parkinson’s, in which old pathways are lost and new ones are hard to develop. At Dr. Mike’s Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute, intense exercise improves symptoms for more than 30 percent of people with Parkinson’s.

Learning-based memory exercises can also help keep our memory sharp… umm have you tried LUMOSITY? I love their games, it’s a great break during the day!

… and remember that change is possible at any time. Not only is our brain plastic (able to be “remapped” toward greater health, calm, memory, and reduction of pain) but also our thoughts and feelings can be reshaped on a daily basis. We can begin to experience positive transformation within days—a transformation that can be sustained over a lifetime.

so, try a new hobby, activity or brain game today! What are you waiting for? much love.

(adapted from NGNEWS)