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Exercise and Brain Health

Exercise benefits are well documented. They include improvements in cardiovascular and musculoskeletal capacity, mental health and cognitive function.

Exercise and mental health has received more attention recently. Investigators have documented the growth of new neurons (neurogenesis) in the hippocampus, which is a brain region related to memory and learning. In this study, these adaptations were found to be most closely associated with aerobic exercise rather than high-intensity interval training (HIIT) or resistance training and were seen after 6-8 weeks of training. The aerobic exercise group demonstrated 2-3 times more hippocampal neurons at the end of the study.

Exercise induces growth factors stimulating a cascade of positive increased brain activity.Image and content from @rehabscience

Such findings not only have implications for younger individuals looking for strategies to enhance cognitive function, but also older individuals hoping to prevent or reduce the risk of developing diseases such as Alzheimer’s Disease where cognitive decline is a hallmark sign.

Nokia MS et al. Physical exercise increases adult hippocampal neurogenesis in male rats provided it is aerobic and sustained. J Physiol. 2016.