Tag Archives: medical fitness

Training for a better memory

What causes age related memory loss?

Memory Loss

As we get older our memory usually gets worse. Almost everyone knows someone who gets a little more forgetful with age. Some later than others but it seems inevitable. What causes this and is there nothing we can do to prevent or slow down this process?

Our memory is not bound to a single brain structure. Different parts of our brain function as different parts of what we call our memory. For example we have a special memory for movement patterns that we perform without thinking such as walking or riding a bike. These are stored in and retrieved from the cerebellum, the smaller brain behind our large brain (cerebrum). Furthermore both the frontal and temporal lobes play a large part in our memory. Another important structure in forming memories is the hippocampus. The hippocampus, among other things, transfers memories from our short term memory to our long term memory. When the hippocampus gets damaged this process gets interrupted and making new memories might be impossible.

Brain anatomy
Figure 1: Brain anatomy

As we get older several changes take place in our brains. One of these is arteriosclerosis. Our brains use about 20% of the total amount of oxygen that our body uses at rest. Consider that our brains take up only 2% of our total mass and you can see that oxygen and therefore blood needs are quite high. When the quality of our blood vessels decreases blood supply to our brain is compromised. To function optimally, the brain needs an unobstructed blood supply. Arteriosclerosis prevents this and is one of the causes of age related memory loss.

We do not know everything about how the brain functions and how it changes during aging. Aside from that, hereditary factors can play a large role in the aging brain. There is good news however. Arteriosclerosis can be prevented or even reversed by adopting a healthy lifestyle. Aerobic exercise in particular can reverse arteriosclerosis and therefore improve blood flow to the brain.

Is age related memory loss inevitable?

Another reason for age related memory loss is a decrease in mass in the hippocampus. As said before, the hippocampus is essential in forming long term memories. A decrease in size compromises memory.

In addition, both strength training and aerobic exercise can increase the size of the hippocampus, or at least prevent it from shrinking. An important factor in this is training intensity. A higher training intensity in both strength training and aerobic exercise requires more concentration and therefore can be seen as exercise for the brain.

An different way of training the brain is performing more complex exercises such as maintaining balance while performing memory tasks or solving math problems in your head. Other possibilities are learning a new skill that involves complex movement patterns such as juggling or playing a new instrument.

Finally a healthy lifestyle is essential in maintaining a well functioning brain. As said before, arteriosclerosis is an important factor in age related memory loss. The process of arteriosclerosis can be accelerated by physical inactivity, unhealthy nutrition, too much stress, smoking and drinking alcohol. Improving your lifestyle in any or all these fields will be of great benefit to your brain.

In short, although it is not avoidable for everyone, much can be done to prevent or slow down age related memory loss and improve health at the same time.

See also:

-Fitness and depression


– Bear, M.F., Connors, B.W., Paradiso, M. A. Memory Systems. In: Neuroscience exploring the brain 2nd edition. USA Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.

-Frodl, T., Strehl, K., Carballedo, A., Tozzi, L. Doyle, M., Amico, F., Gormley, J., Lavell, G., O’Keane, V. Aerobic exercise increases hippocampal subfield volumes in younger adults and prevents volume decline in the elderly. Brain Imaging and Behavior 2019.

-Netz, Y. Is There a Preferred Mode of Exercise for Cognition Enhancement in Older Age?—A Narrative Review. Frontiers in Medicine 2019, 6, 57.

-Roque, F.R. Hernanz, R., Salaices, M., Briones, A.M. Exercise Training and Cardiometabolic Diseases: Focus on the Vascular System. Current Hypertension Reports 2013, 15, 3, 204-2015.

Low back pain exercise therapy: Swiss ball or floor exercises?

Low back pain Swiss ball Low back pain exerciseaffects most people at least once in their lives. Although most cases of low back pain go away without any therapy or other intervention, some become chronic and require a form of therapy. Several forms of exercise therapy have been proven effective. Among these is exercise therapy using a Swiss ball. However, there is some debate as to whether exercises using the Swiss Ball are more effective in treating chronic low back pain than the same kind of exercises performed on the floor. The following study performed by researchers from Daegu University in South Korea aimed to find an answer to the question which form of low back pain exercise is most effective.

Interval training with coronary artery disease

(9-4-2013) People suffering from cardiovascular training with coronary artery diseasedisease benefit greatly from proper training. Especially cardiovascular exercise, which exercises the heart, leads to many positive effects regarding health and daily functioning. Despite the many advantages many heart patients have difficulty finding the time to exercise regularly. To find a solution for this excuse, scientists from the University of Ontario Canada performed a study regarding the effects of an interval training with coronary artery disease patients.

Fitness and exercise and multiple sclerosis


Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is an inflammatory condition which damages myelin sheats around the axons of the brain and spinal cord. The myelin sheath improves nerve conduction velocity and is crucial for communication between nerve cells. Damage or demyelination decreases nerve function which can lead to muscle weakness, muscle spasm and ataxia.1 These are some of the more common symptoms of MS, but is can take many different forms.1,2 Scientists have not found the cause of MS, however more evidence is pointing towards that MS is an auto-immune disorder.1 Patients suffering from MS are usually treated with medicines aimed at improving symptoms and physiotherapy or exercise therapy.3,4 The aim of these therapies is maintaining functioning, such as performing everyday tasks.5 Recently more research is performed to the effects of physical training on MS symptoms,4 however a complete overview is still lacking. The aim of this article is to review the effects of different forms of training on MS symptoms.

Fitness and depression

By: Meike de JongDepression


Almost everyone knows someone who is suffering from a mild or more serious form of depression. A depression is a serious psychological mood disorder which is characterised by insomnia, fatigue, change in appetite and a state of low mood.1 Unfortunately the number of people suffering from depression is expected to increase by as much as 10%.2 Treatment of depression usually consists of medication (antidepressants) and psychotherapy. In addition other therapy forms such as light therapy and alternative treatments are often used.3

Fitness as treatment for cancer


Cancer is a serious illness which affects many people in their lives and currently causes most deaths in the western world. Although cancer is primarily treated by chemotherapy and radiotherapy, physical activity and/or exercise has positive effects on therapy related fatigue, daily functioning, quality of life, muscle strength, physical fitness and risk of developing secondary cancer in (ex)-cancer patients. In addition, fitness as treatment for cancer positively affects inflammatory mediating factors, which are related to developing and maintaining cancer.. Moreover it has been shown that the risk of developing cancer decreases as a result of training. These effects strongly depend on training intensity, training volume and how well exercise guidelines are followed.

Fitness as treatment for high blood pressure

High blood pressure, also known as hypertensionHeart is the main risk factor in developing cardiovascular disease, heart failure and can even lead to a heart attack. Hypertension is diagnosed when systolic pressure is >140mmHg and/or diastolic pressure is >90mmHg when there are no co morbidities such as diabetes or kidney diseases. A systolic and diastolic pressure of <120 and <80 is considered a healthy blood pressure independent of age. Hypertension can have many causes, but often the cause can not be determined, which is known as primary or essential hypertension. Hypertension is usually treated with medicine like diuretics, beta blockers or ACE-inhibitors. However recently another form of treatment is recommended by doctors, which is physical activity and training. This article reviews literature investigating the effects of fitness as treatment for high blood pressure. Studies on cardiovascular of resistance exercise in people with hypertension will be evaluated and determined whether these training forms have a place in the treatment of hypertension.

Training against obesity

Obesity is a serious form Fitness against obesityof being overweight and is defined as a Body Mass Index (BMI) over 30. Trying to lose weight while being obese does not necessarily mean a different approach than being overweight, but there are some key points to keep in mind during when training against obesity. Many people who have become obese by not exercising enough and an unhealthy diet, have an altered metabolism This makes it harder to use fat to produce energy and therefore makes it more difficult to lose that fat. In other words, when someone gains weight, it gets progressively harder to lose it again in a healthy way, because the body has increasing difficulty to burn the excess fat and is only able to burn carbohydrates for energy. 

Osteoporosis Training

When people get older, bones often get weaker as a consequence of changes in hormonal regulation caused by aging and/or menopause. Especially in women osteoporosis, as this process is called, can pose large problems. It increases the risk of bone fractures when people fall.

Fortunately osteoporosis can be prevented to a large extent or countered by means of an effective training. Similar to muscle tissue, bone adapts to external forces. So to increase bone strength and improve bone tissue quality it is necessary to increase the amount of force exerted on the bones in daily life.

Running is reasonably effective, to improve bone density, especially for the bones in the legs, but resistance exercise has better effects. Resistance exercise at the right intensity and with the right exercises can exert force on most bones, making them all stronger, instead of just the legs. A good training intensity to start with is a resistance with which 15-20 repetitions can be performed. This is a lower intensity, but since the bones are not as strong as they should be and bone tissue adapts a little slower than muscle tissue it is better to take it slow and increase intensity not too quickly.

After 2 months of regular training, training intensity can be increased to a resistance with which 12-15 repetitions can be performed, later 10-12 repetitions with corresponding resistance are recommended for optimal loading of the bones. When performed regularly, osteoporosis can be prevented, slowed down or even reversed.