Sharpen your brain with simple exercises

ARCADIA Walter Hollywood, 88, is learning to pump iron, but what he's really getting is a lesson on how to boost his memory.

"I think the weight training program is very good. I work on about all of these machines and I do pushups," said Hollywood.

It appears Walter is on to something. The latest research reveals Alzheimer's patients who were physically fit had more brain volume than those who were not fit.

While researchers need more studies to see if this brain/fitness connection translates to the rest of the population, neurologist Vincent Fortanasce says his experience shows it does.

"We used to think that brain and brawn didn't mix. We now know that brawn actually builds brain," said Dr. Fortanasce.

While any type of cardio is beneficial to overall health, Dr. Fortanasce says strength training specifically targets brain cells key to memory and cognitive function.

"By using anaerobic exercise or strengthening exercises, it actually increases the number of cells and connections that are in the brain," said Dr. Fortanasce.

He recommends a combined workout using concentric and eccentric movements: exercises that shorten and lengthen muscle fibers.

For example, concentric movements are what your quads do to climb stairs, eccentric is what happens when you descend. The same with lifting and putting down a child.

This can be duplicated with free weights and isometric exercises. Pausing in between challenges your muscles even more. Walter calls his routine a "smart" workout.

"I'm doing all these things for both my body and my brain," said Hollywood.


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