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Exercise your body and your brain power will benefit. That is according to a study published this year in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The study was conducted at The University of Pittsburgh University of Illinois, Rice University, and Ohio State University. The study is considered the first to look at older adults already experiencing atrophy of the hippocampus. The hippocampus is the region of the brain responsible for long-term memory storage. Researchers looked at 120 adults between the ages of 55 and 80 to evaluate the function of the hippocampus as they age. They said it typically shrinks in late adulthood, resulting in impaired memory and a heightened risk for dementia. While the results show that the exercise can help, further studies need to be conducted to determine to determine the long term effects.
Researchers concluded that, “The hippocampus shrinks in late adulthood, leading to impaired memory and increased risk for dementia. Hippocampal and medial temporal lobe volumes are larger in higher-fit adults, and physical activity training increases hippocampal perfusion, but the extent to which aerobic exercise training can modify hippocampal volume in late adulthood remains unknown. “
More specifically, one group in the study did aerobic exercise while the other merely did stretching. The spatial memory of both groups was evaluated at three intervals throughout the study. The results were far more beneficial for the aerobic participants than the stretching. The study mainly focused on older adults who were formerly sedentary.
Researchers found that “The aerobic exercise group demonstrated an increase in volume of the left and right hippocampus of 2.12 percent and 1.97 percent, respectively. The same regions of the brain in those who did stretching exercises decreased in volume by 1.40 and 1.43 percent, respectively.”
Lead author Kirk Erickson, professor of psychology at the University of Pittsburgh stated, “We think of the atrophy of the hippocampus in later life as almost inevitable. But, we’ve shown that even moderate exercise for one year can increase the size of that structure.