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.
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. The brain at that stage remains modifiable.”
Erickson believes that by exercising earlier in life you are beneficially increasing your brain’s capacity to retain memory and protecting it from atrophy.
The study concluded that, “These theoretically important findings indicate that aerobic exercise training is effective at reversing hippocampal volume loss in late adulthood, which is accompanied by improved memory function.”
Joanne Sgro-Killworth is a Television Fitness Expert, Certified Personal Trainer and Sport Nutritionist. She is Certified in Pilates, Pre-natal/Post-Partum, Yoga and Senior Fitness. She specializes in Weight Loss, Post-Rehab and Post Cancer Training. Joanne's fitness plans and recipes are available globally on her website www.fitnessanswer.com. She resides in the Phoenix, AZ area with her husband, where she runs her personal training business, Fitness Answer, LLC.
Reviewed July 15, 2011
by Michele Blacksberg R.N.
Edited by Alison Stanton