Aerobic Exercise Increases Brain Size, Improves Neuronal Health

Regular exercise staves off effects of brain aging

Regular exercise staves off effects of brain aging

Or to put it another way, if you're looking to keep your brain big and healthy, exercise could be your silver bullet.

Reports state that the health of the brain of a person decreases with the age, an average brain shrinks by almost fiver percent every decade after the person reaches the age of 40.

An worldwide collaboration of researchers from Western Sydney University and the University of Manchester reviewed 14 clinical trials that examined the brain scans of 737 people before and after an aerobic exercise program, as well as a control group.

While researchers were unable to prove that exercise increases the volume of the brain, they did find that the health of the region's left side was improved by regular exercise.

In collaboration with the University of Manchester in Britain, Firth's team analyzed the results of 14 clinical trials which examined the effects of exercise programs on brain size. Ages ranged from 24 to 76 years with an average age of 66.

The study, published in the journal NeuroImage, included a mix of healthy adults, people with mild cognitive impairment such as Alzheimer's and people with a clinical diagnosis of mental illness including depression and schizophrenia.

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The researchers evaluated the data of the these trials to examine the effects of the aerobic exercises on the participants, which included stationary cycling, walking, and treadmill running. The length of the interventions ranged from three to 24 months with a range of 2-5 sessions per week.

The new study's authors discovered that while exercise had no effect on total hippocampal volume, it significantly increase the size of the left region of the hippocampus in humans.

"Our study provides some of the most definitive evidence to date on the benefits of exercise for brain health", Dr. Firth said. Animal studies have shown that exercise actually increases the size of the hippocampus, but until now proof that the same occurs for humans has been inconsistent. "In other words, exercise can be seen as a maintenance program for the brain".

It may also prevent ageing-related neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer's and dementia, the researcher noted.

Interestingly, physical exercise is one of the very few "proven" methods for maintaining brain size and functioning into older age.

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