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Exercise: It's non-negotiable

Nov 27, 2023

Exercise, Mitochondrial Health, and Brain Fitness

Studies have suggested that physical activity may delay brain aging and degenerative conditions, improve cognitive processes and memory, and promote a sense of well-being. A 2019 review of 48 studies that compared the effects of exercise on both physical function and cognitive function in older adults (60 years of age or older), suggested that exercise training has a significant benefit, improving both functions in this population. Trials have found that different types of physical activity, from cardio workouts, to strength training, to dancing, to yoga & tai chi, may improve attention, executive function, and memory.

One component of exercise benefits on brain health is the benefit on mitochondrial function. You’ll recall that mitochondria are the energy-producing factories in our cells. Ageing has been associated with a decrease in mitochondrial functions. In addition, neuroinflammation, oxidative stress (imbalance between intake/production of toxins & our ability to neutralise them),  and mitochondrial dysfunction have all been noted in the progression of neurodegenerative conditions like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and multiple sclerosis. Research suggests that physical activity may both improved mitochondrial functions and be anti-inflammatory.


Exercise also appears to improve neuroplasticity – ie how malleable our brain is, as well as impacting both the quality & volume of our brain matter. Studies have suggested that cardio fitness may not only contribute to improved brain health, but also potentially decelerate any grey matter decrease associated with development of disease.


Exercise can be an effective strategy to improve plasticity, preserve neuronal function, and reduce the risk of cognitive decline and dementia later in life. In addition, application of exercise intervention strategies in the early stages of neurocognitive disorders may improve outcomes.

  • Aerobic training has been suggested to potentially delay the progression of vascular cognitive impairment.
  • After following a 12-week multimodal physical exercise program, elderly patients with Mild Cognitive Impairment showed improvements in both mobility and executive functions.

A 2020 review suggested that exercise training as an complementary therapy for Parkinson’s improves both motor disorders, including balance and risk of falls, and non-motor disorders, such as cognitive function and quality of life. 

So what are the takeaways for women in menopause when a risk of dementia may be a concern for the future? In short, do NOT stop moving your body. Exercise is central to every aspect of health.

Get your heart rate up, maintain that muscle, and don’t ever tell yourself, ‘I’m too old for this’.

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