Last week a popular newsletter mentioned me on a list of the world’s top integrative medicine doctors. They even had a little paragraph that mentioned I’m well known for my work in fitness and exercise.
I’m happy people know me for showing people how the right kind of exertion can increase heart and lung power, and has helped thousands of people lose fat and regain their metabolism.
But there’s another reason why I’m happy to let people know about the right kind of exertion:
It’s good for your brain.
Let me give you just one example of what I’m talking about.
In a study from the University of California, San Francisco, researchers looked at results from clinical trials on 163,797 people. Buried in the middle of it is an incredible number: Those who got the least physical activity had an 82% higher rate of Alzheimer’s disease.1
Excess plaques, proteins and “white matter” build up in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s. Some of this happens when not enough oxygen and blood get to your brain tissue.
This is where you needs a robust “cognitive reserve.” That’s like a protective buffer zone in your brain. It allows your brain to keep functioning even if tangles and plaques are developing.
Cognitive reserve explains why an autopsy can show physical signs of Alzheimer’s in the brain but the person never showed any symptoms. Their cognitive reserve kept them functioning.
Physical exercise builds up your cognitive reserve. But you’ll want to choose an activity that boosts your cardiopulmonary fitness. This is a measure of how fit your heart and lungs are.
Notice how this is NOT cardiovascular fitness.
Shorter bursts of exertion focused on cardiopulmonary fitness increase the power of your heart and lungs. Longer bouts of exercise that focus on making your heart and lungs efficient – cardiovascular fitness – do almost nothing for heart and lung power.
But it’s the heart and lung power that make a difference in preventing Alzheimer’s and dementia.
A new study illustrates what I’m talking about. Researchers looked at 2,747 people between 18 and 30 years old. Using a treadmill test they measured each person’s cardiopulmonary fitness at the beginning of the study which was started 25 years ago.
Recently, they tested everyone for memory and reaction speed. People who had more heart and lung power at the beginning of the study had better memory and faster reaction times. Their brains benefitted more over the long term by building heart and lung power.2
It’s just more proof of the far-reaching benefits of exerting yourself with a focus on the intensity of the challenge you give your heart and lungs. It’s why I named my system Progressively Accelerating Cardiopulmonary Exertion, or P.A.C.E.
Early on, I wanted to find a way to help people be able to do interval training, which at the time seemed to be the most beneficial to your health. But along the way I discovered that if you just focus on increasing the challenge with progressivity and acceleration, the journey turned out to be greater than the destination.
The best part is that P.A.C.E. works well no matter what your current fitness level is. Start out slowly and gradually increase the challenge. Either increase the number of repetitions you do or how fast you do them. Over time, you’ll notice it gets easier and easier to do your exercises at a higher intensity.
I feel so strongly about the benefits of P.A.C.E. my PACE Express fitness system that I want you to try it for yourself. So here’s the first workout from PACE Express with my compliments:
Remember, to make it a true P.A.C.E. workout, rest and recover between sets. You should be winded. But your recovery time will quickly decrease.
It may take you a few sessions to build up your stamina. That’s OK. It’s constantly challenging yourself just a bit more each time (progressivity) that builds the power you need to increase your brain’s cognitive reserve.
To Your Good Health,
Al Sears, MD
1. Barnes D, Yaffe, K, “The Projected Impact of Risk Factor Reduction on Alzheimer’s Disease Prevalence.” Lancet Neurol. 2011; 10(9): 819–828.
2. Zhu N, et. al. “Cardiorespiratory fitness and cognitive function in middle age: the CARDIA study.”Neurology 2014;82(15):1339-46.