Exercise Literally Heals Your Brain, Says Study
Exercise Literally Heals Your Brain, Says Study Image

Cardiorespiratory exercise such as running, biking and just about any other exercise that gets your heart really pumping is obviously good for your body, however, new research has shown it also heals cognitive changes in the brain.

Brain tissue is made up of ‘grey matter’, cell bodies, and filaments, called white matter, that extend from the cells.

The volume of gray matter appears to correlate with various skills and cognitive abilities.

The researchers found that increases in peak oxygen uptake were strongly associated with increased gray matter volume.

What is grey matter?

Grey matter contains most of the brain’s neuronal cell bodies. It includes regions of the brain involved in muscle control, and sensory perception such as seeing and hearing, memory, emotions, speech, decision making, and self-control.

The study involved 2,013 adults from two independent cohorts in northeastern Germany.

Participants were examined in phases from 1997 through 2012.

Cardiorespiratory fitness was measured using peak oxygen uptake and other standards while participants used an exercise bike.

MRI brain data also were analyzed.

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The results suggest cardiorespiratory exercise may contribute to improved brain health and decelerate a decline in gray matter.

An editorial by three Mayo Clinic experts that accompanies the Mayo Clinic Proceedings study says the results are “encouraging, intriguing and contribute to the growing literature relating to exercise and brain health.”

Ronald Petersen, M.D., Ph.D., a Mayo Clinic neurologist and first author of the editorial, says the most striking feature of the study is the measured effect of exercise on brain structures involved in cognition, rather than motor function.

He said: “This provides indirect evidence that aerobic exercise can have a positive impact on cognitive function in addition to physical conditioning.

“Another important feature of the study is that these results may apply to older adults, as well.

“There is good evidence for the value of exercise in midlife, but it is encouraging that there can be positive effects on the brain in later life as well.”

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