Many studies have proven that physical exercise appears useful in the prevention of cognitive impairment and dementia in older age. Now, researchers at Goethe University Frankfurt have explored in one of the first studies globally how exercise influences brain metabolism.
To develop an understand on the good effects of physical exercise on the brain, gerontologists and sports medicine physicians at Goethe University Frankfurt have examined the consequences of usual exercise on brain metabolism and memory of 60 participants aged between 65 and 85 in a randomised controlled trial. Their conclusion: regular exercise enhances good health and additionally has a positive effect on brain metabolism.
The results of this study are featured in the journal Translational Psychiatry.
The researchers examined the subjects in the SMART study (Sport and Metabolism in Older Persons, an MRT Study) by assessing movement-associated parameters, cardiopulmonary health and cognitive efficiency. In addition, magnetic resonance tomography (MRT) and magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS) have been used to measure brain metabolism and brain structure.
Following this study, the individuals rode on an exercise bike 3 times a week over a interval of 12 weeks. The 30-minute coaching periods have been personally tailored to each participant’s performance level. The individuals were examined again after the session to document the results of this bodily exercise on brain metabolism, cognitive performance and brain constitution. The researchers additionally investigated to what extent activity had improved participants’ bodily health.
As expected, physical exercise had influenced brain metabolism: it did not lead to an increase in choline. The concentration of this metabolite mainly rises due to the extended loss of nerve cells, which mostly occurs in Alzheimer’s disease. Physical exercise resulted in steady cerebral choline concentrations in the training group, whereas choline levels increased in the control group. The subjects’ physical fitness also increased: they showed improved cardiac efficiency after the training period. All in all, these findings recommend that bodily exercise improves bodily fitness and also protects cells.