Bulking Up Your Brain… Why Exercise Matters!
You know that exercise is good for building and maintaining muscle mass and bone density (especially important as the body ages). But did you know exercise also has a physiological effect on your brain matter? Exciting new findings of a long-term study show a potential relationship between exercise and the prevention of brain shrinkage.
What Does Exercise Do for the Brain?
Maybe you go for a run to keep your heart strong or lift weights to increase muscle mass. In the same way, playing brain games and doing mental exercises is excellent for the mind. Encouraging and maintaining plasticity of the brain is a valuable way to reduce the risk of age-related neurological disorders, such as dementia, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s diseases.
Data on Brain Shrinkage & Exercise
A decades-long study has recently revealed that physical exercise may play a large part in developing this plasticity and preventing certain cognitive health issues.
Here’s how the researchers set up their study:
- 1,583 participants in the Framingham Heart Study were enrolled for this observation.
- Participants had an average age of 40 and no signs of dementia or heart disease.
- Each participant was observed in a treadmill test.
- Two decades later, participants took an additional treadmill test, along with MRI brain scans.
- An additional analysis was performed on a group of participants who developed heart disease or began the use of beta blockers for heart or blood pressure issues (1,094 individuals).
The study’s participants had an average exercise capacity of 39mL/kg/min. This figure is known as “peak VO2,” the maximum amount of oxygen the body is able to use in a minute. Here’s where it gets interesting…
- “For every eight units lower a person performed on the treadmill test, their brain volume two decades later was smaller, equivalent to two years of accelerated brain aging,” reports the study.
- After excluding the population with heart disease or taking beta blockers, the amount of brain volume reduction decreased to the equivalent of one year of accelerated brain aging for every eight units of lower physical performance.
Not only is regular exercise important, but maintaining cardiovascular health can also have a positive correlation with maintaining brain volume. The younger you start, the more brain matter you keep. Even light exercise, such as walking an hour per week, was shown to result in larger brains when compared to individuals who did little to no exercising.
About The Framingham Heart Study
Begun in 1948, the Framingham Heart Study (FHS) is an observational study of participating residents in Framingham, MA.
Funded by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute and conducted by the Boston University School of Medicine, the study has recently received funding and approval to operate for another six years.
This 70-year study tracks the habits and health of generations of residents throughout their lifetimes.
Help for a Bulkier Brain
As always, talk to your doctor before beginning a new exercise regimen. If you’d like to learn more about how exercise can positively impact the long-term health of your brain, please reach out to us by calling (888) 549-5519 or using our online chat feature.