A new study conducted by researchers at the Center for BrainHealth at the University of Texas at Dallas found that engaging in a physical exercise regimen helps healthy aging adults improve their memory, brain health and physical fitness.
“Science has shown that aging decreases mental efficiency and memory decline is the main cognitive complaint among older adults”, said Sandra Bond Chapman, founder and chief director of the Center for BrainHealth and lead author of the paper. “This research shows the tremendous benefit of aerobic exercise on a person’s memory and demonstrates that aerobic exercise can reduce both the biological and cognitive consequences of aging.”
Adults (57-75 years old) were randomized into a physical training or a wait-list control group. The physical training group participated in supervised aerobic exercise on a stationary bike or treadmill for one hour, three times a week for 12 weeks. Participants’ cognition, resting cerebral blood flow, and cardiovascular fitness were assessed at three time points: before beginning the physical exercise regimen, mid-way through at 6 weeks, and post training at 12 weeks.
Researchers measured brain blood flow using arterial spin labeling (ASL) MRI, through which they were able to detect brain changes much earlier than before. One key region where brain blood flow increased was the anterior cingulate, indicating higher neuronal activity and metabolic rate.
The anterior cingulate has been linked to superior cognition in late life. Participants who took completed physical exercises that improved their memory performance also showed greater increase in brain blood flow to the hippocampus, the key brain region affected by Alzheimer’s disease.
Brain changes were identified though noninvasive brain imaging techniques earlier than memory improvements, implicating brain blood flow as a promising and sensitive metric of brain health gains across treatment regimens.
In another recent study, researchers showed that complex mental training increases whole brain blood flow as well as regional brain blood flow across key brain networks. The combination of physical and mental exercise may be the best health measures to improve overall cognitive brain health.
To think we can alter and improve the basic structure of the mature brain through aerobic exercise and complex thinking should motivate adults of all ages to engage in physical activities as well as to challenge our thinking.
Source: Center for BrainHealth