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Exercise is a key to a healthy brain as we grow older, AdventHealth research shows

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A hospital care team reviews scans of a patient's brain

Are there things we can do to prevent the brain from aging in a negative way? One researcher at the AdventHealth Research Institute (AHRI) believes the answer is physical activity.

Kirk Erickson, who has a doctorate in experimental psychology and is the director of translational neuroscience, shares evidence in his recent research pointing strongly towards exercise as a key to healthy brain aging.

headshot of Kirk Erickson, Ph.D.
Kirk Erickson, Ph.D. is the director and senior investigator for the AdventHealth Translational Neuroscience Institute.

“One of the most promising avenues for positively affecting your brain is physical activity,” Erickson said. “Think of the brain as a muscle. Physical activity keeps oxygen and nutrients flowing through the brain, which it needs. Blood flow helps get rid of toxins in the brain as well.”

While exercise sits at the top of the healthy brain aging to-do list, there are several other factors that age the brain and Erickson discusses them in this Becker’s Healthcare podcast.

Erickson also told Becker’s Healthcare he sees the future of medicine providing preventative prescription to patients, like diet, exercise, mental stimulation, and prescriptions to keep the brain from aging.

In addition to the brain, there is research being conducted examining how to keep the body healthy for longer. Erickson’s colleague, Bret Goodpaster, has a doctorate in human bioenergetics and is the scientific director of the AdventHealth Translational Research Institute, is working to answer the question, “can we fight against our genetics?”

His team has several studies underway aimed at developing and implementing better therapies to make us more resilient later in life as well as rebounding more quickly after injury, surgery or bed rest. In one global study, Goodpaster is working to discover how each person’s molecules respond to aerobic and strength training in order to eventually prescribe a customized workout per patient based on their genetic make-up. Learn more about these studies related to body aging and how weight loss and a healthy diet impact how we age.

These brain and body aging studies are just a few of the more than 300 research trials are open in Central Florida at any given time, spanning a broad spectrum of studies, from how to treat diseases like cancer and Alzheimer’s to population science and molecular biology.

In the Inspiring Wholeness podcast, Erickson joins Dr. Steven R. Smith to share some of the biggest research breakthroughs they’ve seen, what projects are on tap, what they’re eyeing for the future and how the community can help.

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