Move and your grey cells thank you!
Being active, especially in nature, is part of our genetic programme and ensures our cognitive performance up to a ripe old age.
A study published in 2016 shows very impressively that a wide range of physical activities, from gardening to dancing, improves brain volume and reduces the risk of Alzheimer’s disease by up to 50%. This study, conducted by researchers at UCLA Medical Center and the University of Pittsburgh, is the first to show that virtually any type of (aerobic) physical activity can improve brain structure and reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
Long-term studies show enormous results
In connection with the 30-year “Cardiovascular Health Study”, the researchers examined a long-term cohort of 876 patients at four research locations in the USA. These participants, on average 78 years old, underwent regular memory monitoring, which included standard questionnaires on their movement patterns. In addition, MRI scans of the participants’ brains were analyzed using advanced computer algorithms to measure the volume of brain structures. This also includes structures such as the hippocampus, which is responsible for the storage of information (memory) and is thus affected by the onset of Alzheimer’s disease. The extent of physical activity of the participants correlated clearly with the brain volumes and spanned a variety of movement types, from gardening to dance or regular training in the gym.
The strength of the study lies in the consideration of the energy produced by physical activity (as a function of the kilocalories burned) as an indicator of the mass and volume of grey matter in the brain. Thus, a physically measurable quantity is associated with a biological effect.
More brain volume through more activity
The results of the analysis show that increased physical activity correlates with increased brain volumes in the forehead, temporal and parietal lobe, including the hippocampus. The increase in physical activity therefore creates immense benefits and in this study was able to reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s dementia by 50%. The approximately 25% of the respondents, who already showed signs of mild cognitive impairment, also benefited from a larger brain volume as physical activity increased.
Conclusion: Better than the head editor of Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, Dr. George Perry, one can not express it:
“The greatest potential for the future in Alzheimer research at present is lifestyle intervention, including more exercise. Raji et al. present a groundbreaking study that links exercise to an increase in gray matter and opens the field of lifestyle intervention to objective biological measurement”.
Raji, C. A., Merrill, D. A., Eyre, H., Mallam, S., Torosyan, N., Erickson, K. I., Lopez, O. L., Becker, J. T., Carmichael, O. T., Gach, H. M., Thompson, P. M., Longstreth, W. T., Kuller, L. H., 2016. Longitudinal relationships between caloric expenditure and gray matter in the cardiovascular health study. Journal of Alzheimer’s disease : JAD 52 (2), 719-729. http://view.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26967227