Exercise has enormous health benefits but most of its benefits are related to weight loss or fitness. There is not much discussion on how exercise helps the brain communications, making it easy to go through the signs of aging, without taking any medicines or treatment. A new study on old-age Afro-Americans estimates the benefits of memory, focus, and thinking in older adults, linked with aerobic exercises twice a week.
This study is published in the journal named Neurobiology of Learning and Memory.
Most people who were a part of this study were in their 60s and included both men and women. They were continuously tracked for their health and fitness levels especially through the cognitive tests. Some of them also approved getting their brain scans done to track the progress.
They were grouped into sedentary and active groups and both these groups were shown more or less similar health and fitness levels at the start of this study. The exercise group was offered aerobic dance sessions twice a week for a maximum of 20 weeks, after which the results were compared.
Based on these results, it is clear that the understanding of exercise benefits is not just limited to young or middle-aged adults but also older adults. Planning a proper exercise plan helps to improve thinking, memory, and other cognitive functions, in addition, to make a person active and energetic despite aging.
The link between physical health and brain development is not new and there are dozens of studies that prove this positive association. Numerous studies based on animal models as well as human models show that physical activity or exercise improves the number of neurons in a special brain segment called the ‘hippocampus’. These increased neurons are related to memory building and storing it thus improving the ‘skill development’ and ‘critical thinking’.
In older adults, the number and health of neurons and the connection between these neurons are already impaired. Just like all other organs of the body age, the brain also ages. But following certain exercises may increase the structure and function of neurons inside the hippocampus part of the brain, and a regular exercise plan saves older people from brain volume loss. This way, the chances of age-related memory loss such as Alzheimer’s, and dementia are reduced.
There were some previous studies too which reveal how exercise can change the functions of the brain. For example, a study from 2016 said that brain segments work in a collaboration without even having a physical connection to each other. When a part that governs attention span or decision-making skills is affected, its effects are also seen in another segment following a synchronized pattern.
Mark Gluck, from the Rutgers University (N.J), worked along with his research partners to understand the changes in older people’s brains after they start doing regular exercise. This research team mainly focused on the medial temporal lobes of the brain which include the hippocampus too which is responsible for most cognitive functions such as ability and focus.
Unfortunately, like all other body parts, the hippocampus is also affected with age which shows causing memory-related problems. changes to this medial temporal lobe of the brain result in compromised thinking, inability to make a decision, and struggles with memory. According to Dr. Gluck, a regular exercise routine may prevent these problems to hit a person, despite aging.