Exercise helps safeguard against age-related brain-shrinkage, improves memory function and maintains brain health. A new Australian-led study from Western Sydney University looked at the effects of aerobic exercise on a region of the brain called the hippocampus, which is critical for memory and other brain functions. From age 40 onwards, the human brain shrinks as we age (by approximately 5% each decade). Studies in mice and rats consistently show that exercise hippocampal size,
Studies in mice and rats consistently show that exercise hippocampal size, however the evidence from human trials hasn’t been so clear cut. This study, a systematic review of 14 human trials, examined the brain scans of 737 people before and after aerobic exercise programs against control (no exercise) participants. Participants
Participants included a mix of healthy adults, people with mild-cognitive impairment such as Alzheimer’s, as well as people diagnosed with depression or schizophrenia. The study looked at aerobic exercise programs (cycling, walking or treadmill running) ranging from 3-24 months of 2-5 exercise sessions per week.
Lead researcher, Joseph Firth commented “when you exercise you produce a chemical called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), which may help to prevent age-related decline by reducing deterioration of the brain”.
Journal reference: Firth, J. et al, 2018, Effect of aerobic exercise on hippocampal volume in humans: A systematic review and meta-analysis, Neuroimage, DOI: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2017.11.007