Aerobic exercise can increase your brain size
Boston: Exercise not only strengthen your heart and muscles but also beefs up your brain and increases its power, a new study has found.
Dozens of studies now show that aerobic exercise can increase the size of critical brain structures and improve cognition in children and older adults.
University of Illinois psychology professor Art Kramer, a nationally recognised expert on the role of physical fitness on cognition, discussed these brain-changing outcomes at a session of the 2013 meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Boston.
"Populations throughout the industrialised world are becoming increasing sedentary as a result of the changing nature of work and leisure activities," said Kramer, director of the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology.
"As a result of these societal changes, increases in diseases such as hypertension, diabetes, osteoporosis and some cancers are increasing. Physical activity serves to reduce susceptibility to these diseases," Kramer said in a statement.
"Increased physical activity also has direct, and relatively rapid effects on cognition and brain health. Such results have now been reported, over the course of several decades, in animal studies of physical activity," he said.
Studies in humans, many conducted in Kramer's lab, also show that regular exercise, such as walking three times per week, also increases brain power.
Kramer demonstrated that older adults who participate in fitness training and physical activity benefit from significant improvements in their brain structure and function.
He detailed how scientists use both behavioural measures and non-invasive neuroimaging techniques such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), functional MRI, event-related brain potential, and event-related optical signals to assess cognition.
Kramer dissected the gaps present in human and animal cognitive and brain health literature and describe how future research can remedy this.