February 01, 2011
Exercise Protects Memory Formation Capability

If you forget to exercise you won't be able to remember other things either.

PITTSBURGH, PA., and CHAMPAIGN, ILL.—A new study shows that one year of moderate physical exercise can increase the size of the brain's hippocampus in older adults, leading to an improvement in spatial memory.

The project—conducted by researchers at the University of Pittsburgh, University of Illinois, Rice University, and Ohio State University—is considered the first study of its kind focusing on older adults who are already experiencing atrophy of the hippocampus, the brain structure involved in all forms of memory formation. The study, funded through the National Institute on Aging, appears in the Jan. 31 Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

The right hippocampus expanded in the older folks who exercised and shrank in the older folks who did not exercise. If you sit idly your capacity to form memories will decay.

The scientists recruited 120 sedentary older people without dementia and randomly placed them in one of two groups—those who began an exercise regimen of walking around a track for 40 minutes a day, three days a week, or those limited to stretching and toning exercises. Magnetic resonance images were collected before the intervention, after six months, and at the end of the one-year study.

The aerobic exercise group demonstrated an increase in volume of the left and right hippocampus of 2.12 percent and 1.97 percent, respectively. The same regions of the brain in those who did stretching exercises decreased in volume by 1.40 and 1.43 percent, respectively.

Also check out my recent related post: Lift Weights For More Brain Power?

Share |      Randall Parker, 2011 February 01 10:10 PM  Aging Brain Studies

WJ said at February 2, 2011 9:23 AM:

Walking 40 minutes, 3 times a week is a good beginning, but it's still pretty low-grade exercise. I wonder if the results would be even better for more frequent workouts of higher intensity; I wonder, too, if the same results apply to people of any age.

willis said at February 4, 2011 11:46 AM:

I exercise far more vigorously than in the experiment, but I forgot what the results were.

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