Exercise and the Brain ... again!!

sweaty training smallAs the saying goes, it isn’t the first time and it certainly won’t be the last time .... that we get research that shows that the benefits of exercise go beyond muscles and up as far as your brain.

 

Here is yet more evidence that exercise can reduce the risk of developing Alzheimers disease. It comes from a study carried out at McMaster University in Canada by Jennifer Heisz, an assistant professor in the department of kinesiology.

 

The study covered 1,646 people who were above the age of 65 at the start of the research, none of whom had dementia at that point, and who were followed over a five year period. At the end of the research period there was found to be a definite lower risk of developing Alzheimers amongst those who took part in exercise compared with those who didn’t - although the researchers could not show what was behind the results. There is, however, a small percentage of people who are genetically at higher risk of developing Alzheimers by virtue of carrying the apolipoprotein E (APOE) genetic mutation, and this research unfortunately doesn’t apply to them.

 

“Given that most individuals are not at genetic risk, physical exercise may be an effective strategy for preventing dementia” they said.

 

The second study, by Scott Hayes, PhD, assistant professor of psychiatry at Boston University and the Associate Director of the Neuroimaging Research for Veterans Center at the VA Boston Healthcare System, dealt with the relationship between cardio-respiratory fitness(CRF) and the ability to absorb new information. The research measured brain activity while learning. This was done by taking MRI scans which collected images of the subject’s brain while they learned and remembered names that were associated with pictures of unfamiliar faces. It was found that brain activity was higher among older adults with higher CRF than among those with lower CRF.

 

The increased brain activity in the older adults with better CRF was observed in brain regions that typically do show age-related decline - suggesting that fitness may contribute to brain maintenance. Interestingly, the older adults with better CRF had greater activation in some brain regions than younger adults, suggesting that fitness may also serve a compensatory role in age-related memory and brain decline.

 

If you want to read the studies, the Alzheimers research can be found here and the brain activity study can be read here or here

 

And if you want to give yourself the best chance of still being able to read, and understand, these or similar reports in twenty or thirty years time, it’d be a good idea to take up their recommendations!!!