Get younger with your brain: just one hour of exercise per week "could reduce the risk of dementia and improve mental fitness"
- Boston University researchers examined data from an ongoing cardiac study
- They found that people who exercised more had more brain volume
- Two and a half hours a week, even though they are as light as they go, can be beneficial
- And every above-average hour wipes another year from your age, they said
Scientists might say that regular exercise could improve both mental fitness and physical performance and reduce the risk of dementia.
One study has shown that people who exercise more, even if it's as easy as walking, slow down their brain's aging process and get less dementia.
The results are good news for people who are trying to stay fit but are not marathon runners or Tour de France hopefuls.
Researchers say that every move, even less than the two and a half hours a week recommended by the NHS, could be enough to build and benefit.
Any extra hour could wipe another year off someone's age, suggests the research.
Even if you are as light as walking, you should do enough work on a regular basis to increase your brain's performance and slow the aging process of the mind, say experts (photo).
Boston University researchers studied data from an ongoing heart health study in the US to explore the benefits of exercise.
They found that every additional hour of physical activity in an average week was 1.1 years younger than brain age.
Someone who does sports for three hours every week may, over time, maintain a brain that is three years younger than the average of his age.
HOW TRAINING IS GOOD FOR THE BRAIN?
Many scientific studies encourage people to exercise by promoting the potential effects on their brains – but what exactly does it do?
Summing up recent research, Heidi Godman, Editor-in-Chief of Harvard Health Letter, said that it can increase the size of certain parts of the brain, improve sleep, and stimulate healthier brain cells.
Research from the University of British Columbia has shown that people who have performed regular aerobic exercise – such as running, swimming or cycling – have larger and more active hippocampus regions of the brain associated with learning and emotions.
Other research has suggested that the prefrontal cortex and the medial temporal cortex tend to be larger in people who exercise more often – these regions control thought and memory.
Exercises can also reduce inflammation (swelling) that can damage the whole body, including the brain, in the event of prolonged damage to the cells.
It can also stimulate the production of growth factors, chemicals that affect the health of brain cells and the growth of new blood vessels to deliver more oxygen to the organ.
Sport also helps people to sleep better and reduce stress and anxiety, which has been shown to have a positive effect on brain performance and mental health.
"We have just started to uncover the connection between physical activity and brain health," said researcher Dr. med. Nicole Spartano.
Research has shown that lower intensity exercise could be beneficial as long as it was sufficient to make the heart, lungs and muscles work harder.
Dr. Spartano added: "Each additional hour of light intensity was associated with higher brain volumes, even in people who did not comply with current physical activity guidelines.
"These data are consistent with the assumption that potential benefits of physical activity are possible for brain aging [build up] at a lower, attainable intensity or volume. "
The team said it was not clear how much exercise could be enough to provide "optimal" protection against dementia. However, recommended persons should exercise for at least 250 minutes per week.
There are several mechanisms by which exercise can help the brain, including improving blood flow and promoting better sleep.
Scientific studies have found in the past that people who regularly do aerobic exercise – which is focused on cardiovascular fitness such as running, swimming and cycling – have more volume in certain parts of the brain.
The hippocampus, which controls learning and emotions, and the temporary and temporary cortices that influence thought and memory are larger in the fitter.
Exercising often improves people's sleep and reduces stress, which can have a positive effect on mental health and mental health.
The Boston team's research was published in the journal JAMA Network Open by the American Medical Association.