Regular aerobic exercise boosts memory area of brain in older women

April 8, 2014, British Medical Journal

Regular aerobic exercise seems to boost the size of the area of the brain (hippocampus) involved in verbal memory and learning among women whose intellectual capacity has been affected by age, indicates a small study published online in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.

The hippocampus has become a focus of interest in dementia research because it is the area of the brain involved in verbal memory and learning, but it is very sensitive to the effects of ageing and neurological damage.

The researchers tested the impact of different types of exercise on the hippocampal volume of 86 women who said they had mild memory problems, known as - and a common risk factor for dementia.

All the women were aged between 70 and 80 years old and were living independently at home.

Roughly equal numbers of them were assigned to either twice weekly hour long sessions of (brisk walking); or , such as lunges, squats, and weights; or balance and muscle toning exercises, for a period of six months.

The size of their hippocampus was assessed at the start and the end of the six month period by means of an MRI scan, and their verbal memory and learning capacity was assessed before and afterward using a validated test (RAVLT).

Only 29 of the women had before and after MRI scans, but the results showed that the total volume of the hippocampus in the group who had completed the full six months of aerobic training was significantly larger than that of those who had lasted the course doing balance and muscle toning exercises.

No such difference in hippocampal volume was seen in those doing resistance training compared with the balance and muscle toning group.

However, despite an earlier finding in the same sample of women that improved verbal memory, there was some evidence to suggest that an increase in was associated with poorer .

This suggests that the relationship between brain volume and cognitive performance is complex, and requires further research, say the authors.

But at the very least, aerobic exercise seems to be able to slow the shrinkage of the and maintain the volume in a group of who are at risk of developing dementia, they say.

And they recommend regular aerobic exercise to stave off mild cognitive decline, which is especially important, given the mounting evidence showing that regular exercise is good for cognitive function and overall brain health, and the rising toll of dementia.

Worldwide, one new case of dementia is diagnosed every four seconds, with the number of those afflicted set to rise to more than 115 million by 2050, they point out.

Explore further: Exercise can shield the aging brain, studies show

More information: Aerobic exercise increases hippocampal volume in older women with probable mid cognitive impairment: a 6 month randomised controlled trial, Online First, DOI: 10.1136/bjsports-2013-093184

Related Stories

Exercise can shield the aging brain, studies show

July 16, 2012
(HealthDay) -- Evidence is mounting that exercise provides some protection from memory loss and Alzheimer's disease, with three new studies showing that a variety of physical activities are associated with healthier brains ...

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 ...

Cardio and weight training reduces access to health care in seniors

May 14, 2013
Forget apples – lifting weights and doing cardio can also keep the doctors away, according a new study by researchers at the University of British Columbia and Vancouver Coastal Health Research Institute.

Aerobic fitness and hormones predict recognition memory in young adults

December 2, 2013
Researchers at Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) have found further evidence that exercise may be beneficial for brain health and cognition. The findings, which are currently available online in Behavioural Brain ...

Muscle-strengthening and conditioning in women associated with reduced risk of diabetes

January 14, 2014
Aerobic exercise is known to prevent type 2 diabetes, and muscle-strengthening alone or in combination with aerobic exercise improves diabetic control among those with diabetes. Although men who weight train have been found ...

Recommended for you

Study of protein 'trafficker' provides insight into autism and other brain disorders

September 22, 2018
In the brain, as in business, connections are everything. To maintain cellular associates, the outer surface of a neuron, its membrane, must express particular proteins—proverbial hands that reach out and greet nearby cells. ...

Breast milk may be best for premature babies' brain development

September 21, 2018
Babies born before their due date show better brain development when fed breast milk rather than formula, a study has found.

Early warning sign of psychosis detected

September 21, 2018
Brains of people at risk of psychosis exhibit a pattern that can help predict whether they will go on to develop full-fledged schizophrenia, a new Yale-led study shows. The findings could help doctors begin early intervention ...

White matter repair and traumatic brain injury

September 20, 2018
Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is a leading cause of death and disability in the U.S., contributing to about 30 percent of all injury deaths, according to the CDC. TBI causes damage to both white and gray matter in the brain, ...

Gut branches of vagus nerve essential components of brain's reward and motivation system

September 20, 2018
A novel gut-to-brain neural circuit establishes the vagus nerve as an essential component of the brain system that regulates reward and motivation, according to research conducted at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount ...

Genomic dark matter activity connects Parkinson's and psychiatric diseases

September 20, 2018
Dopamine neurons are located in the midbrain, but their tendril-like axons can branch far into the higher cortical areas, influencing how we move and how we feel. New genetic evidence has revealed that these specialized cells ...

0 comments

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.