Brian Christie is wearing an Old Guys Rule surfing T-shirt, but the University of Victoria neuroscientist knows that one of the best ways to keep his brain young is to exercise.
It has only been a decade since scientists discovered that brain cells could be increased and made more active through exercise, not just lost through disease–and Christie was part of that groundbreaking research team at the Salk Institute in California. Granted, the studies were on mice.
He’s still looking at ways to help regenerate neurons in the adult brain and isn’t waiting for the research on humans.
“Exercise creates new cells and changes old cells for the better,” says Christie, who bikes or runs two kilometres to and from UVic each day.
“Even if you’re diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, if you exercise, the progression of your disease will slow considerably. As little as 20 minutes of brisk exercise three times a week–if you just do that, it re-ally produces a lot of benefits.”
Backing that is a 2008 study by Dr. Jeffrey Burns of the University of Kansas that found only one-fourth the brain shrinkage in fit people with Alzheimer’s disease compared to less-fit participants.
Abnormalities in new brain-cell growth and connections are linked to Alzheimer’s, major depression and schizophrenia. It’s especially important because brain volume and the production of new neurons decline with age.