There may not be a cure for Alzheimer’s Disease, but there are interventions that can slow it down. Squats, in particular, may soon be counted as a preventative measure.
Damian M Bailey, professor of physiology and biochemistry at the University of South Wales’ Neurovascular Research Unit, recently sat down with journalist Michael Mosley to discuss ways to prevent dementia-related illness.
The link between physical health and cognitive health
Routine physical activity has been previously reported to be a meaningful deterrent against aggressive forms of dementia. The literature is much more scarce in regards to the kinds of specific exercises that offer the most robust benefits to cognitive health. In both contexts, blood circulation is consistently cited as an important factor.
Generally speaking, high-intensity workouts improve one’s blood flow the most reliably, but these regimens may not be easily performed by older populations wishing to maintain their cognitive health.
Why squats are best for older folks
According to Dr. Bailey, squats are ideal because they are not as strenuous as aerobic exercises. They improve cognitive function by intermittently challenging the brain with an increase in blood flow and a decrease in blood flow. Moreover, the process appears to release chemicals associated with focus retention and critical thinking.
“This toing and froing from high-flow to low-flow challenges the inner lining of the arteries that supply blood to the brain,” Bailey explained.
More specifically, Bailey posits that performing squats may increase blood flow to the hippocampus, which is the region of the brain principally responsible for learning and memory faculties. Blood flow in the hippocampus naturally begins to decrease as we age. This may result in reduced cognitive function.
Dr. Bailey believes older populations can appreciate squats as mini-interval interval training sessions for the brain. Brisk walks have also been cited as disease-altering in various studies on dementia symptomology. But young, otherwise healthy people may have more to gain from traditional exercises like cycling, running, and swimming.
“What we have identified is that three to five minutes of squat stands three times a week is even more effective in terms of how the brain is adapting and responding to that exercise than steady-state exercise.”
Other benefits linked to squats
Squats require trainees to lower their hips from a standing position and then stand back up in repetition. If you want to increase the intensity of the workout, consider using a dumbbell.
In addition to potentially improving cognitive function into old age, those who regularly perform squats enjoy improved muscle and core strength, joint function, mobility, and decreased belly fat. All of these benefits may counteract health consequences associated with the aging process.
More research needs to be conducted to prove Dr. Bailey’s hypothesis. In any case, the exercises share a robust relationship with other important health faculties.