Tags: Health Topics | exercise | fitness | brain health | memory

3 Ways Fitness Benefits the Brain

Walking on a track
Walking on a track (Siam Pukkato/Dreamstime.com)

Thursday, 12 September 2019 10:37 AM

If you're looking for incentives to hit the gym, new research suggests that staying in good shape may help preserve brain structure, boost memory, and improve the ability to think clearly and quickly.

The finding follows an analysis of fitness and brain health among more than 1,200 young adults, average age 30. All underwent brain scans; tests to measure memory, sharpness, judgment and reasoning; and a speed-walking trial to assess cardiovascular fitness. (Muscle strength was not assessed.)

The investigators found that study participants who moved faster and farther over the two-minute walking test performed better on thinking tests than their less-fit peers. Fitter men and women were also found to have healthier nerve fibers across the white matter portion of the brain. White matter is critical for high-quality neural communication, the researchers noted.

Study lead author Dr. Jonathan Repple offered three theories as to what might explain a strong body/strong brain connection.

For one, "exercise decreases inflammation, which then, in turn, is beneficial for brain cells," said Repple, a psychiatrist and neuroscientist with the University of Muenster in Germany.

Secondly, being fit may promote better nerve-fiber insulation, and greater growth across nerve cells and nerve connections, he explained.

A third reason for the brain benefit may be that fitter men and women simply have a "better blood supply to the brain," Repple added.

Dr. David Knopman, a professor of neurology with the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, seconded that thought.

"It is my opinion that these results reflect a pattern of general improved vascular health in individuals who are more physically fit," said Knopman. He is a fellow with the American Academy of Neurology and was not part of the study team.

But Knopman said that it is also likely "that physical fitness is a characteristic of people who are more health conscious and practice better health behaviors." In that case, a constellation of healthy behaviors ultimately might come together to foster better brain health and structure.

For couch potatoes, could a link between body and brain health mean that getting just a bit fitter might be a win-win?

Study volunteers ranged from 20 to 59. Repple said the findings held up even after accounting for factors such as age, gender, high blood pressure, diabetes and body mass index (a standard measurement of obesity).

However, he said, because the study merely observed each individual's current status, he cannot say for sure that the newly fit will actually enjoy improved brain health ("cognition").

But Repple did note that the fitness-brain health connection seemed to be on a sliding scale, meaning that "if you get 10 'units' better on the walking test, you improve three 'units' on the cognitive tests."

Also, "a lot of other studies showed that, independent of age, it is always beneficial to start exercising," Repple said.

Knopman offered a cautious take on the study's implications: cardiovascular fitness while relatively young "probably has beneficial consequences in mid-life and later life." And that likely means that "the earlier one begins to practice good vascular health behaviors, the greater the benefits will be," he said.

"The sooner the better," Knopman added.

Repple presented the findings Monday at a meeting of the European College of Neuropsychopharmacology, in Copenhagen. The report was simultaneously published online Sept. 9 in Scientific Reports.

© HealthDay

   
1Like our page
2Share
Health-News
If you're looking for incentives to hit the gym, new research suggests that staying in good shape may help preserve brain structure, boost memory, and improve the ability to think clearly and quickly.
exercise, fitness, brain health, memory
547
2019-37-12
Thursday, 12 September 2019 10:37 AM
Newsmax Media, Inc.
 

The information presented on this website is not intended as specific medical advice and is not a substitute for professional medical treatment or diagnosis. Read Newsmax Terms and Conditions of Service.

Newsmax, Moneynews, Newsmax Health, and Independent. American. are registered trademarks of Newsmax Media, Inc. Newsmax TV, and Newsmax World are trademarks of Newsmax Media, Inc.

NEWSMAX.COM
© Newsmax Media, Inc.
All Rights Reserved