A woman swims face down in a very blue pool


Now this looks like exercise!

This is another blog in my series on “Brain Health”. Last week we studied a first-class up-to-date university research program into the benefits of olive oil, arguably the most important ingredient in the Mediterranean lifestyle and diet. We shared a cooking and dining experience at Sun City, we listed all the principal ingredients and, we took an explicit look at what this means to someone who desires to live a southern Mediterranean lifestyle here in the Lowcountry. As in previous blogs on this subject, my writing was based on the real-life experience of my brother-in-law Davide who lives the southern Italian lifestyle to the full extent. To be with him and experience simple, rustic, inviting and healthy food is a joy in life. Davide provides us with his wisdom based upon his own living reality.

In addition to eating fabulous food, my friend Davide believes in physical exercise too! Good nutrition coupled with moderate physical exercise and good brain exercise are the three vital elements to improved health and minimizing the risk of heart disease and/or dementia.

So let’s take a look at physical exercise.


Walking for exercise may become increasingly important as we age and our risk for dementia and other brain disorders increases. It can even help reverse the effects of aging. A study published in the Annals of Neurology found that the 69 participants ages 55–88 who-who met the exercise guidelines set by the American Heart Association showed a significantly lower risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.

To improve your cognition even more, and in a safe controlled environment, try walking backward! Be “faster on your feet” and in your amazing brain!


Neal D. Barnard is an American doctor, author, clinical researcher, and founding president of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine. As of 2015, he is an adjunct associate professor of medicine at the George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences. He founded the Barnard Medical Center in 2016.

In his TED talk, Dr. Neil Barnard gives simple to follow and practical ways we can avoid dementia, including Alzheimer’s. He speaks to the power of food and how the right food can offset or negate the slow build-up of brain disease. He emphasizes the need to eat the right foods to get the correct vitamin balance as opposed to buying vitamins over the counter which can limit their effectiveness. However, he also emphasizes the need for us to walk briskly three times per week. He suggests starting with brisk ten-minute walks and building up to three forty minutes per outing.

Why? Dr. Barnard points to important research completed by the University of Illinois where 120 adults were brought in and given controlled memory tests and brain scans to establish a baseline. Then the adults were asked to undertake regular exercise. After one year the same 120 adults received a new memory test and brain scan.

Guess what! In each case, their memory had improved and instead of normal aging shrinkage of the hippocampus, (the vital part of the brain that is the “seat of memory”), it had increased in size! Wow!


This book has recently been published in Britain and will become available in the US later this year. Not surprisingly the author has reached similar conclusions:

He quotes a University of Pittsburg study of 120 people over the age of 67 and had them perform moderate aerobic exercise for three days a week. Strikingly, a follow-up MRI scan revealed that those who exercised netted a 2% increase in the size of their hippocampus. This compares with an average 1.5% reduction in size for this age group! The middleman in this victory was the BDNF protein (brain-derived neurotrophic factor) which is known to create the birth of new neurons and synapses throughout the entire nervous system. The author also points to similar research at the University of Sussex, England, where a systematic review of the effect of moderate exercise yielded positive results in people already diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. The exercise ranged from 30 minutes of walking four times a week for fifteen weeks, to 30 minutes of vigorous calisthenics every day for twelve weeks. For those who were of the age where walking is a chore, they found even gentle Tai Chi was worthwhile.

The fact that low and high-intensity exercise brought improvement speaks volumes.

The conclusion was “follow a Mediterranean diet, exercise, avoid stress, stimulate your mind and ……sleep well”.


On June 26th this year Time magazine reported about the study published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease. They found that people who did more moderate intensity physical activity were more likely to have healthy patterns of glucose metabolism in their brains – a sign of healthy brain activity. The authors found that large doses of high-intensity exercise may be needed to offer the benefits of a “modest increase” in moderate activity, suggesting that you don’t have to exercise in the extreme to benefit your brain!


From 2000 to 2012, indeed, it’s estimated that about 99% of all newly developed “dementia drugs” failed to pass their clinical trials. For all the news headlines about “a cure for Alzheimer’s”, this goal remains fugitive.


IMG_0133 We are certainly NOT without hope! It has been proven that nutritious food and physical exercise does make a positive difference to our long-term cognitive ability. We have it in our own hands to help ourselves, our children and grandchildren.

At Memory Matters, our vision is to optimize Brain Wellness and our mission to achieve this vision is quickly moving forward.

To find out more, please call us at 1843 842 6688 and make an appointment to come and see us. We are your Lowcountry memory care resource with 20 years of experience, and care. You can also visit our website which describes all the programs and events at our not-for-profit organization, www.memory-matters.org, or find up to the minute information on our business Facebook page.

Thank you so much for reading this blog!

Enjoy eating well and your moderate exercise, and please do exercise your amazing brain!

For information about Memory Matters including a free of charge memory test,  call 1 843 842 6688. All calls are treated with confidentiality.

Vision: Memory Matters optimizes brain wellness.

Mission: Memory Matters optimizes brain wellness and memory care through education, programs, and support for individuals, caregivers in the Low Country community.