For a long time, the belief was that the brain could not regenerate and that the neurons, once lost, were unrecoverable during the natural and normal aging process. But scientists have had to revise this idea so much so that the word neuroplasticity was coined to indicate how the brain is not actually static but adapts and reorganizes itself, changing its structure in response to experience and trauma, and above all, it regenerates itself. Indeed, neurogenesis, namely the ability of neurons to renew themselves, seems to affect the entire life span of the person and particularly affects the hippocampus, which is the part of the brain dedicated to memory and which is damaged in case of Alzheimer’s disease (Fuchs et al, Neural Plast, 2014 - Tobin et al, Cell Stem Cell, 2019). But for this to happen, the brain should be kept in exercise. We need to take care of the brain just like we take care of our body, our skin and our muscles. In this article and in the articles that follow dedicated to this topic, we will see how lifestyle, diet and some plants and spices affect the brain and its ability to renew itself. Today, in particular, we will talk about the importance of physical activity.
As reported by scientific studies (Chang et al, J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci, 2010), maintaining adequate physical activity increases neuroplasticity and resilience of the brain, namely its ability to adapt to events and stress. In fact, it has been observed that older people who had continued to perform physical activity showed better results with regard to the speed of reasoning, the ability to perform actions and memory than those who no longer exercised. Improvements were also observed in those who practiced less than 5 hours of physical activity per week but the best results were found in people who had declared more than 5 hours of physical activity per week. Exercise is believed to contribute to maintaining a brain environment that facilitates plasticity by modulating angiogenesis, namely the formation of blood vessels, and the activation of particular cells of the nervous system, called glial cells, which support neuroplasticity. Not only that, exercise also helps to avoid the formation of beta amyloid plaques that are considered the main cause of Alzheimer's disease (Lin et al, Brain Plast, 2018).