The benefits of exercising are no secret—when you pair a balanced diet with daily activity, you’re a healthier person. Many people are focused on their waistlines or the size of their muscles, but what they don’t realize is exercise helps keep your brain healthy, too.
The Importance of Exercise to Your Brain Health
Neurology journal recently published a research study that shows the importance of middle-aged adults exercising to maintain their brain size as they age. Some parts of our brains do shrink with time, particularly the prefrontal cortex and hippocampus. Both areas hold memory, learning and planning abilities.
The research study, which started in 1948, began to examine risks of heart disease. Now that the study has moved on to its third generation of participants, researchers found adults lacking in cardiovascular activity had higher blood pressure and smaller brains after 20 years. The less people exercised, the more their brain atrophied later in life, particularly in patients with Alzheimer’s disease.
Their research study does not have definitive proof that exercise creates a better outcome for brain health, but they do theorize that physical fitness increases blood flow and oxygen to your brain, improving its ability make new connections. In fact, a 2014 study on rats produced results that show sedentary lifestyles altered the shape of brain neurons, whereas exercise produces new brain cells.
More research is needed to learn exactly how exercise or lack thereof affects the brain, but what we do know is exercise influences the brain in positive ways, as well as keeping the rest of your body healthier.
Cleveland Clinic will soon be investigating the impact of exercise on brain health, so stay tuned! In the meantime, if you would like to know more about your own brain health, take our free online brain health check-up.