Older adults can boost
their brain health by engaging in aerobic exercise, according to a new study.
Researchers found that, in
addition to improving physical fitness, activities such as running or biking
can enhance memory and brain function by increasing blood flow in specific
parts of the brain.
The study authors said their
findings are particularly important since staying mentally sharp is a greater
concern than social security or physical health among US adults aged 50 and
"Science has shown
that ageing decreases mental efficiency, and memory decline is the primary
cognitive complaint of older adults," study author Sandra Bond Chapman,
chief director of the Centre for Brain Health at the University of Texas,
Dallas, said in a centre news release. "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
The 12-week study involved
sedentary adults between the ages of 57 and 75. The participants were divided
randomly into two groups: an exercise group and a comparison group that didn't
exercise. The exercise group had supervised training sessions that involved
either riding a stationary bike or working out on a treadmill for one hour
three times a week. The participants' thinking ability, brain blood flow and
cardiovascular fitness were assessed when the study began, after six weeks and
again after 12 weeks.
Superior mental ability
"One key region where
we saw increase in brain blood flow was the anterior cingulate," study
collaborator Sina Aslan, founder and president of Advance MRI, said in the news
release. "The anterior cingulate has been linked to superior [mental
ability] in late life."
The study, published online
in the journal Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience, also found that those in
the exercise group who showed improvements in their memory also had increased
blood flow to the hippocampus, the key brain region affected by Alzheimer's
brain-imaging techniques allowed the researchers to identify brain changes
before any improvement to the participants' memory, measuring brain blood flow
could help doctors assess brain health and the effectiveness of treatment
"The combination of
physical and mental exercise may be the best health measures to improve overall
cognitive brain health," Chapman said. "We have just begun to test
the upper boundaries of how we can enhance our brain's performance into late
life. To think we can alter and improve the basic structure of the mature brain
through aerobic exercise and complex thinking should inspire us to challenge
our thinking and get moving at any age."
The US Centres for Disease
Control and Prevention provides more information on the health benefits of
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