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Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Aerobic Exercises Increases Brain Volume in Elderly

As you get older, you will probably at some point start to worry about staying on top of your mental game. Will you get senile? Will you get Alzheimer's? These frightening questions may have a hopeful answer if you live a healthy lifestyle and get plenty of aerobic exercise.

A recent study by Arthur Kramer and colleagues at the University of Illinois used MRI brain scans to evaluate the effects of exercise in aged humans on parts of the brain that are most involved in age-related decline. They studied 59 healthy but sedentary volunteers, aged 60-79, during a 6-month exercise period. Half of the subjects participated in aerobic exercise, and the other half did toning and stretching exercises. Twenty young adults who did no exercise served as a control group. A before-and-after comparison of MRI images revealed that the aerobic group developed more brain volume, both in white- and grey-matter areas. These improvements did not occur in the young subjects nor in the older ones who did only muscle-toning exercise.

While memory as such was not tested, it is highly likely that increased brain volume could only help memory function.

Source: Colcombe, S. J. et al. 2006. Aerobic exercise training increases brain volume in aging humans. The Journals of Gerontology, Series A: Biological Sciences and medical Sciences. 61: 1166-1170.