Sunday, October 19, 2008

Exercise and Brain Aging

There is now abundant research pointing to the beneficial effects of aerobic exercise on cerebral health. This recent study finds that taking up exercise can improve cognition and cerebral health. There is a striking relationship between cardiovascular and cerebral health. The reason for this is obvious: the brain consumes approximately 20% of our oxygen intake, so maintaining maximal blood supply to the brain is critical. One of the reasons Ginkgo Biloba works is because it reduces platelet activating factor, thereby improving cerebral circulation.

Exercise and do it often. You don't have to run marathons, in fact intense exercise can do more harm than good. Light exercise is okay but it is important to push yourself, just going for a casual walk is good but going for a brisk walk is much better.

Exercise effects on cognitive and neural plasticity in older adults
Kirk Erickson and Arthur F Kramer
British Journal of Sports Medicine (2008).
The abstract:

Older adults frequently experience cognitive deficits accompanied by deterioration of brain tissue and function in a number of cortical and subcortical regions. Because of this common finding and the increasing aging population in many countries throughout the world, there is an increasing interest in assessing the possibility that partaking in or changing certain lifestyles could prevent or reverse cognitive and neural decay in older adults. In this review we critically evaluate and summarize the cross-sectional and longitudinal studies that assess the impact of aerobic exercise and fitness on cognitive performance, brain volume, and brain function in older adults with and without dementia. We argue that six-months of moderate levels of aerobic activity are sufficient to produce significant improvements in cognitive function with the most dramatic effects occurring on measures of executive control. These improvements are accompanied by altered brain activity measures and increases in prefrontal and temporal grey matter volume that translate into a more efficient and effective neural system.

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