An worldwide collaboration of researchers from Western Sydney University and the University of Manchester reviewed 14 clinical trials that examined the brain scans of 737 people before and after an aerobic exercise program, as well as a control group.
It is thought that after the age of 40, our brains shrink by about 5% every decade.
"Our data showed that, rather than actually increasing the size of the hippocampus per se, the main "brain benefits" are due to aerobic exercise slowing down the deterioration in brain size".
The subjects ranged in age from 24 to 76 with an average age of 66 and included both healthy participants as well as those with mild cognitive impairments (like Alzheimer's) and those with a clinical diagnosis of mental illness (like depression and schizophrenia).
Exercise! Study after study touts the enormous benefits exercise has to offer, the latest confirming that aerobic exercise can improve memory function and maintain brain health as we age.
Researchers systematically reviewed 14 clinical trials examining the brain scans of 737 people before and after aerobic exercise programmes, showing that while exercise had no effect on total hippocampal volume, it did significantly increase the size of the left region of the hippocampus.
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"When you exercise you produce a chemical called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), which may help to prevent age-related decline by reducing the deterioration of the brain", lead author Joseph Firth said in a media release on Tuesday.
The exercise involved included stationary cycling, walking, and running on a treadmill, two to five times a week, for durations ranging from three to 24 months. "In other words, exercise can be seen as a maintenance program for the brain".
"Firth also added that as well as helping to boost regular"'healthy" aging, the results of the new research could have implications for preventing aging-related neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer's and dementia, although further research is needed.
Regular exercise can increase the size of the human brain, a landmark Australian study has found.
Interestingly, physical exercise is one of the very few "proven" methods for maintaining brain size and functioning into older age.
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