13/03/2020

We’ve had a look at the benefits of cardio exercise in previous posts, however new research has shed more light into the cognitive benefits of this form of exercise. We thought it made for a pretty interesting and, unlike most of the news at the moment, uplifting read!

A study from the German Centre for Neurodegenerative Diseases has found new evidence showing a link between cardiorespiratory fitness and brain health, with regards to grey matter and total brain volume.

Hold up, what’s grey matter?

The brain can be divided into grey and white matter. Grey matter is the tissue in the brain and spinal cord made up of cells while the white matter is made up of nerve fibres. The volume of grey matter is linked with cognitive skills like memory and muscle control among many other functions. The neurodegenerative disease Alzheimer’s shrinks this grey matter over time.

The study, published in January 2020, involved 2,013 people from Germany tested from 1997 through to 2012. The participants cardiorespiratory fitness was measured by monitoring peak oxygen uptake while they worked out on an exercise bike. MRI scans were used to measure the brain activity. They found the exercise to be effective in preserving the volume of the grey matter. Higher grey matter linked to the exercise was shown in brain regions clinically relevant for cognitive changes in ageing including some involved in Alzheimer’s disease. This indicates exercise may delay cognitive aging and with further research possibly neurodegenerative diseases. The research has also suggested the results showed delay in cognitive aging even among older people over the age of 65, showing the value of exercise not only in midlife but in later life too.

The organisation behind the research, The Mayo Clinic, recommends incorporating 150 minutes per week of running or cycling as well as other life style changes such as diet and weight management. The authors wrote “if some of these aging changes could be counteracted by lifestyle changes, this would send a positive message to older individuals”.

More long-term studies into the relationship between exercise and brain health are needed in order to make concrete links, however this research has given unique and encouraging results. You can read the full published article here, we think it’s great news to keep you motivated to achieve your fitness goals no matter your age.

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