Exercise and Brain Health Interview with Jennifer Etnier

Episode 72: Gutsy Health Podcast 


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Show Summary: “There's one organ in the body that's designed to benefit off of movement and that's the brain.”

Jennifer Etnier,  a fellow at the American College of Sports Medicine and the National Academy of Kinesiology,  focuses on physical activity's cognitive benefits. Her mom inspired her mission to spark awareness about the ability of exercise to improve brain functions.

It started when she noticed the difference in his mom's ability to problem-solve, mostly around technology, compared to his father's. At the age of 80, her mom still plays pickleball for two to three hours a day, which is not a regular activity for adults. She also hikes a lot, and she stays active with gardening and all sorts of activities.

Right now, they're doing a clinical trial that's supported by the National Institute of aging. They're looking at the potential benefits of a one-year commitment to physical activity for 40 to 65 years old and have a family history of Alzheimer's disease. They believe that if cognitively normal and healthy people participate in exercise for a year, they'll get behavioral benefits,  brain structure, and brain function benefits.

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Physical Activity and Alzheimer’s Disease 2

Exceptional Highlight:

  • Problem solving abilities could be enhanced by being physically active.
  • The most important thing to recommend is that people do a form of physical activity that they can stick with. If you like hiking, then hike, by all means. I don't want to force you to swim. You're going to get these enduring benefits.
  • If you're in an apartment, you don't have a place to be outside, find somebody who does the fun boot camp on YouTube. Do it as a family.

Show Highlights: 

Do the things that you love as an exercise

Jennifer 5:04

  • I think for sure that her commitment to physical activity has allowed her to maintain her cognitive ability into advanced age.

What does exercise improve?

Juanique 11:48

  • Exercising, enhances mood, enhances memory, enhances all good things. And what our lifestyle is doing now is completely causing deterioration, and all of those aspects and areas.

What was Tristin’s recreational activities as a kid?

Tristin 24:55

  • I ended up playing tennis all the way through high school and then continued to play it recreationally for years and years after that. So it really can make a huge difference. What kind of experience these kids have at a very young age.

What clinical trial do Jennifer’s team do now?

Jennifer 37:46

  • What we anticipate is that we're going to see those benefits, even in people who in addition to their family risk of Alzheimer's also have a genetic risk for Alzheimer's. 

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