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Aerobic exercise improves brain function in adults

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A study led by researchers at the Center for BrainHealth at The University of Texas at Dallas, shows that exercise not only improves physical fitness but also memory and brain health. Lately, increasingly more studies have proven the benefits of sustained physical exercise not only on physical but also on mental health. “Physical exercise may be one of the most beneficial and cost-effective therapies widely available to everyone to elevate memory performance”, researchers pointed out.

Sandra Bond Chapman, Ph.D., founder and chief director of the Center for BrainHealth, Dee Wyly Distinguished University Chair and lead author of the paper,  explained that science proved that aging leads to a decrease in memory efficacy and that memory decline is the first complaint of elderly. According to Chapman, this study shows that aerobic exercise brings great benefit on a person’s memory. Moreover, it seems that it reduces reduce both the biological consequences and the cognitive consequences on a person’s memory.

Aerobic exercise


The researchers came to these conclusions after conducting a study in which they included adults aged between 57 and 75 years, who were randomly divided into a physical training or a wait -list control group. The participants in the physical training group had to make supervised aerobic exercise either on a stationary bike or a treadmill for an hour three times a week over a 12 week period. The investigators evaluated several parameters such as cognition, cardiovascular fitness, resting cerebral blood flow, several times in order to assess the benefits of physical activity: before the study, at 6 weeks after starting training and at the end of the study. Sina Aslan, Ph.D., founder and president of Advance MRI and collaborator on the study, said that they can detect changes in the brain much sooner than before by measuring brain blood flow using arterial spin Labeling (ASL) MRI, which is a non-invasive method.

The researchers point out that one of the regions in which there has been an improvement in blood flow is anterior cingulate, which suggests an improvement in neuronal activity and metabolic rate. It seems that this region, the anterior cingulate, is associated with higher cognition in later life. The study also showed that adults who exercised had better blood circulation in the hippocampus, a region associated with Alzheimer’s disease. However, Chapman pointed out that exercise led to an improvement in blood flow only certain regions of the brain, and that there was not an overall improvement in cerebral circulation.