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Exercise May Protect The Aging Brain

Posted May 09 2008 3:32pm

Researchers in the Netherlands have found that aerobic exercise may increase older adults’ brainpower.

The researchers gathered data from previous clinical trials. They found that when healthy adults older than 55 improved their fitness through aerobic exercise, they also improved in memory, attention, or other mental abilities.

Dr. Maaike Angevaren and colleagues at the University of Applied Sciences in Utrecht examined 11 clinical trials from the U.S., France, and Sweden that involved 670 adults over 55 years old. Some of the studies test the effects of aerobic exercise against no exercise, and some compared flexibility, strength, or social activities.

The researchers found in 8 of the studies that participants who performed aerobic exercise showed an average improvement in their fitness levels, which correlated with improvements in certain measures of mental activity.

The researchers do note that the evidence did not show that aerobic exercise was more beneficial than other forms of exercise. Other forms of exercise may give the same benefits. Although, Dr. Angevaren did say, “improvements in cognition as a result of improvements in cardiovascular fitness are being explained by improvements in cerebral blood flow, leading to increased brain metabolism which, in turn, stimulates the production of neurotransmitters and formation of new synapses.”

Dr. Angevaren also thought that an increase in cardiovascular fitness could also protect the brain by lowering the risks of heart disease and stroke.

It is interesting that exercise is not only good for your heart but also benefits the brain. I think that just about any form of exercise would be beneficial, but it does seem like cardiovascular exercise could increase blood flow to the brain. I know that I feel much more alert after a good workout.

Reference: MedLine Plus

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