Boosting Brain Health: New Online Program for Athletes Launched

GBHI collaborates on new course designed to help sportspeople improve their mental and physical health and protect key cognitive functions such as problem solving, focus and decision making.

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Exercising regularly improves brain health as much as physical fitness, say experts launching a new online program to boost performance and wellbeing. Being active is not only great for general health, but also helps manage modifiable risks linked to dementia, such as depression, obesity, hypertension and social isolation.

Keeping our grey matter in good order gives us a competitive edge and has significant long-term health benefits, the team says. Sportspeople of all abilities are being encouraged to keep their brains healthy by signing up to the interactive course that will provide novel insights and the latest science around brain health, the known risk factors that can affect it across the course of life, and how to reduce these risks. 

The Massive Open Online Course – or MOOC – has been created by researchers at the Global Brain Health Institute, the Discipline of Physiotherapy at the School of Medicine at Trinity College Dublin, along with colleagues at the Universities of Edinburgh and Glasgow and the Brain Health Scotland initiative, which is hosted and supported by the charity Alzheimer Scotland.

Two leading Irish sports figures are backing the initiative: former rugby international Marcus Horan and Olympic rower Claire Lambe will deliver some of the course content. The program is a response to calls from athletes and other interested groups keen to source evidence-based information to support brain health.

Speaking about the new course Brian Lawlor, Deputy Executive Director of GBHI, said: "There’s no health without brain health. But we need to increase awareness and research in brain health and how to maintain it. Just as sport and exercise improve physical fitness, they also have a positive effect on your brain health. Exactly how this happens is explained in this innovative course with practical advice on what you can do to keep your brain healthy at any age, along with the research behind the evidence."

The course is free and available through the FutureLearn digital platform. Participants can learn about the latest research developments and strategies that anyone can adopt to minimize risks to brain health. The course is also available with Spanish captions.