The recent study, published by the Mayo Clinic , reported that cardiorespiratory exercises including brisk walking, running and cycling can improve brain health, especially in gray matter and total brain volume which contains the regions of the brain involved with aging as well as cognitive decline.
The brain tissues are composed of gray matter and white matter. The former’s volume correlates with several skills and cognitive abilities. The study reported that increases in peak oxygen uptake were strongly linked to an increased gray matter volume.
The study involved 2013 participants from two different cohorts in northeastern Germany. They were examined in phases during the period 1997-2012. The research team measured cardiorespiratory fitness via peak oxygen uptake and they also analyzed their brain data using MRI scans.
The findings of the study reported that cardiorespiratory exercise contributed to better brain health and slowed down a decline in the brain’s gray matter. The experts from Mayo Clinic opined that the findings were encouraging, intriguing and also contribute well to the growing literature relating physical activity to brain health.
“This provides indirect evidence that aerobic exercise can have a positive impact on cognitive function in addition to physical conditioning,” Psychcentral quoted Ronald Petersen, M.D., Ph.D., a Mayo Clinic neurologist and first author of the study. “Another important feature of the study is that these results may apply to older adults, as well. There is good evidence for the value of exercise in midlife, but it is encouraging that there can be positive effects on the brain in later life as well,” he added.
Peterson revealed that the most striking feature of the study is that it has measured the effect of cardio exercises on brain structures that are involved in cognition rather than the motor function.
The regions of the brain containing the increased gray matter volume are clinically relevant for cognitive changes in aging, especially those involved in Alzheimer’s disease.