Study finds aerobic exercise improves memory, brain function and physical fitness

November 12, 2013

A new study conducted by researchers at the Center for BrainHealth at The University of Texas at Dallas published online in the open-access journal Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience found that engaging in a physical exercise regimen helps healthy aging adults improve their memory, brain health and physical fitness. This finding is significant considering that among adults 50 and older, "staying mentally sharp" outranks social security and physical health as the top priority and concern in the United States.

"Science has shown that aging decreases mental efficiency and memory decline is the number one cognitive complaint of older adults," said 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. "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."

For the study, sedentary adults ages 57-75 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 , and cardiovascular fitness were assessed at three time points: before beginning the regimen, mid-way through at 6 weeks, and post-training at 12 weeks.

"By measuring non-invasively using arterial spin labeling (ASL) MRI, we can now begin to detect changes much earlier than before," said Sina Aslan, Ph.D., founder and president of Advance MRI and collaborator on the study. "One key region where we saw increase in brain was the anterior cingulate, indicating higher neuronal activity and metabolic rate. The anterior cingulate has been linked to superior cognition in late life."

Exercisers who improved their memory performance also showed greater increase in brain blood flow to the hippocampus, the key brain region affected by Alzheimer's disease. Chapman pointed out that, using noninvasive brain imaging techniques, brain changes were identified earlier than memory improvements, implicating brain blood flow as a promising and sensitive metric of brain health gains across treatment regimens.

"Physical exercise may be one of the most beneficial and cost-effective therapies widely available to everyone to elevate memory performance," says Dr. Chapman. "These findings should motivate adults of all ages to start exercising aerobically."

Chapman cautioned that while physical exercise is associated with a selective or regional brain blood flow, it did not produce a change in global brain blood flow.

"In another recent study, we have shown that complex mental training increases whole brain blood flow as well as regional brain blood flow across key brain networks," Chapman said. "The combination of physical and mental may be the best health measures to improve overall cognitive . 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 and complex thinking should inspire us to challenge our thinking and get moving at any age."

Explore further: Study finds brain training enhances brain health of adults over 50

More information: Shorter term aerobic exercise improves brain, cognition and cardiovascular fitness in aging, Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience , DOI: 10.3389/fnagi.2013.00075

Related Stories

Study finds brain training enhances brain health of adults over 50

September 19, 2013
Strategy-based cognitive training has the potential to reverse age-related brain decline, according to the results of a study conducted by researchers at the Center for BrainHealth at The University of Texas at Dallas.

Study finds aerobic exercise benefits memory in persons with multiple sclerosis

November 1, 2013
A research study headed by Victoria Leavitt, Ph.D. and James Sumowski, Ph.D., of Kessler Foundation, provides the first evidence for beneficial effects of aerobic exercise on brain and memory in individuals with multiple ...

The research is in: Physical activity enhances cognition

February 17, 2013
Exercise doesn't only strengthen your heart and muscles – it also beefs up your brain. Dozens of studies now show that aerobic exercise can increase the size of critical brain structures and improve cognition in children ...

Research reveals roles for exercise and diet in aging, depression

November 10, 2013
New studies released today underscore the potential impact of healthy lifestyle choices in treating depression, the effects of aging, and learning. The research focused on the effects of mind/body awareness, exercise, and ...

Exercise may be the best medicine for Alzheimer's disease

July 30, 2013
New research out of the University of Maryland School of Public Health shows that exercise may improve cognitive function in those at risk for Alzheimer's by increasing the efficiency of brain activity associated with memory. ...

Recommended for you

Our memory shifts into high gear when we think about raising our children, new study shows

December 15, 2017
Human memory has evolved so people better recall events encountered while they are thinking about raising their offspring, according to a new study conducted by researchers at Binghamton University, State University of New ...

Offbeat brain rhythms during sleep make older adults forget

December 15, 2017
Like swinging a tennis racket during a ball toss to serve an ace, slow and speedy brainwaves during deep sleep must sync up at exactly the right moment to hit the save button on new memories, according to new UC Berkeley ...

Study finds graspable objects grab attention more than images of objects do

December 15, 2017
Does having the potential to act upon an object have a unique influence on behavior and brain responses to the object? That is the question Jacqueline Snow, assistant professor of psychology at the University of Nevada, Reno, ...

Little understood cell helps mice see color

December 14, 2017
Researchers at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus have discovered that color vision in mice is far more complex than originally thought, opening the door to experiments that could potentially lead to new treatments ...

Scientists chart how brain signals connect to neurons

December 14, 2017
Scientists at Johns Hopkins have used supercomputers to create an atomic scale map that tracks how the signaling chemical glutamate binds to a neuron in the brain. The findings, say the scientists, shed light on the dynamic ...

Activating MSc glutamatergic neurons found to cause mice to eat less

December 13, 2017
(Medical Xpress)—A trio of researchers working at the State University of New York has found that artificially stimulating neurons that exist in the medial septal complex in mouse brains caused test mice to eat less. In ...

2 comments

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

BobSage
1 / 5 (1) Nov 12, 2013
No statistics to measure the degree of improvement. Therefore, not useful information.
SDPEG
not rated yet Nov 12, 2013
I find it interesting that, earlier this month we see research showing that increases in blood sugar cause a concurrent decrease in glucose in the hippocampus (with decreased cognition), and now this article relating exercise, which decreases overall blood sugar, also stimulating increased resting blood flow to the same region, with similar results. This is not looking very good for the couch potatoes...
https://www.rebeldesk.com

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.