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?
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