How physical exercise prevents dementia

July 21, 2017, Goethe University Frankfurt am Main

Numerous studies have shown that physical exercise seems beneficial in the prevention of cognitive impairment and dementia in old age. Now researchers at Goethe University Frankfurt have explored in one of the first studies worldwide how exercise affects brain metabolism.

In order to further advance current state of knowledge on the positive influence of on the brain, gerontologists and sports physicians at Goethe University Frankfurt have examined the effects of regular exercise on brain metabolism and memory of 60 participants aged between 65 and 85 in a . Their conclusion: regular not only enhances fitness but also has a positive impact on brain metabolism.

As the researchers report in the current issue of the medical journal Translational Psychiatry, they thoroughly examined all the participants in the SMART study (Sport and Metabolism in Older Persons, an MRT Study) by assessing movement-related parameters, cardiopulmonary fitness and . In addition, magnetic resonance tomography (MRT) and (MRS) were used to measure brain metabolism and brain structure. Following this examination, the participants mounted an exercise bike three times a week over a period of 12 weeks. The 30-minute training sessions were individually adapted to each participant's performance level. The participants were examined again after the end of the programme in order to document the effects of this physical activity on brain metabolism, cognitive performance and brain structure. The researchers also investigated to what extent exercise had led to an improvement in the participants' . The study was conducted by the Gerontology Department of the Institute of General Medicine (headed by Professor Johannes Pantel) and the Department of Sports Medicine (led by Professor Winfried Banzer).

As expected, physical activity had influenced : it prevented an increase in choline. The concentration of this metabolite often rises as a result of the increased loss of nerve cells, which typically occurs in the case of Alzheimer's disease. Physical exercise led to stable cerebral choline concentrations in the training group, whereas choline levels increased in the control group. The participants' physical fitness also improved: they showed increased cardiac efficiency after the training period. Overall, these findings suggest that physical exercise not only improves physical fitness but also protects cells.

Explore further: Alzheimer's disease study links brain health and physical activity

More information: S Matura et al. Effects of aerobic exercise on brain metabolism and grey matter volume in older adults: results of the randomised controlled SMART trial, Translational Psychiatry (2017). DOI: 10.1038/tp.2017.135

Related Stories

Alzheimer's disease study links brain health and physical activity

June 22, 2017
People at risk for Alzheimer's disease who do more moderate-intensity physical activity, but not light-intensity physical activity, are more likely to have healthy patterns of glucose metabolism in their brain, according ...

Improving fitness may counteract brain atrophy in older adults

November 19, 2015
Older adults that improved their fitness through a moderate intensity exercise program increased the thickness of their brain's cortex, the outer layer of the brain that typically atrophies with Alzheimer's disease, according ...

Exercise can significantly improve brain function after stroke

February 22, 2017
Structured exercise training can significantly improve brain function in stroke survivors, according to research presented at the American Stroke Association's International Stroke Conference 2017.

Exercise results in larger brain size and lowered dementia risk

August 2, 2016
Using the landmark Framingham Heart Study to assess how physical activity affects the size of the brain and one's risk for developing dementia, UCLA researchers found an association between low physical activity and a higher ...

Study highlights the importance of physical activity and aerobic exercise for healthy brain function

December 2, 2015
Regardless of gender, young adults who have greater aerobic fitness also have greater volume of their entorhinal cortex, an area of the brain responsible for memory. Better aerobic fitness however does not appear to impact ...

Older, fitter adults experience greater brain activity while learning

January 13, 2017
Older adults who experience good cardiac fitness may be also keeping their brains in good shape as well.

Recommended for you

WHO recognises 'compulsive sexual behaviour' as mental disorder

July 15, 2018
The World Health Organization has recognised "compulsive sexual behaviour" as a mental disorder, but said Saturday it remained unclear if it was an addiction on a par with gambling or drug abuse.

How looking at the big picture can lead to better decisions

July 13, 2018
New research suggests how distancing yourself from a decision may help you make the choice that produces the most benefit for you and others affected.

Nature is proving to be awesome medicine for PTSD

July 13, 2018
The awe we feel in nature can dramatically reduce symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, according to UC Berkeley research that tracked psychological and physiological changes in war veterans and at-risk inner-city youth ...

Is depression during pregnancy on the rise?

July 13, 2018
(HealthDay)—Today's young mothers-to-be may be more likely to develop depression while pregnant than their own mothers were, a new study suggests.

Machine learning helps to predict the treatment outcomes of schizophrenia

July 12, 2018
Could the diagnosis and treatment of mental health disorders one day be aided through the help of machine learning? New research from the University of Alberta is bringing us closer to that future through a study published ...

Mental illness study to explore patients' self-assessments

July 12, 2018
As the mental health community pursues new ways to improve the lives of the severely ill, a University of Texas at Dallas researcher is focusing on what can be learned from patients' answers to a simple question: "How do ...

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.