Exercise is a potent brain tonic and here’s how. Walking, running, cycling and other forms of aerobic exercise that pushes up your heart rate increases brain size and function, shows a new US study that used high-resolution MR images to measure anatomical changes in the brain before and after six months of exercise.
While all types of exercise improves brain function, aerobic activity is the quickest way to give the brain a boost, found a study of people with mild cognitive impairment, which puts them at risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.
Exercise boosts brain function by increasing blood flow that prevent brain cells from age-related atrophy. New research also shows that exercise stimulates the formation of new brain cells, which till recently was not believed possible in adult brains.
All forms of exercise done four times a week over a six-month period increased volume in specific areas of the brain, but adults who did aerobic exercise -- treadmill, stationary bike or elliptical training --experienced greater gains than those who just did stretching exercises, showed a US study presented on Thursday at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America in Chicago.
“Even over a short period of time, we saw aerobic exercise lead to a remarkable change in the brain,” said lead investigator Laura D. Baker, from Wake Forest School of Medicine in the US. High-resolution MRI images before the intervention and after six months showed that for both the aerobic and stretching groups, brain volume increased in most gray matter regions, including the temporal lobe, which supports short-term memory.
Compared to the stretching group, the aerobic activity group had greater preservation of total brain volume and increased local gray matter volume and brain tissue. The stretching group showed atrophy within the connecting fibres in the white matter in the brain, which could be an early marker for neurological changes.