Exercise could help you hold on to more grey matter in brain, study says

Mayo Clinic research on more than 2,000 people in Germany found those who exercised had a larger brain volume

Shaun Lintern
Health Correspondent
Thursday 02 January 2020 19:49
Comments
Researchers from the German Centre for Neurodegenerative Diseases followed 2,013 adults from 1997 through to 2012
Researchers from the German Centre for Neurodegenerative Diseases followed 2,013 adults from 1997 through to 2012

Exercise is not just good for the body – it can also be good for keeping brains physically healthier, according to a new study.

Research by the Mayo Clinic on more than 2,000 people in Germany found those who exercised had more grey matter and a larger brain volume – with both involved with cognitive decline and ageing.

According to Mayo Clinic experts, exercise that is good for the heart such as brisk walking, running and cycling could help to slow changes in the brain.

The study, published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings, found an association between cardiorespiratory fitness and brain health. Grey matter is made up of cells and filaments and the volume of grey matter is linked to cognitive abilities.

Researchers from the German Centre for Neurodegenerative Diseases followed 2,013 adults from 1997 through to 2012. Their cardiorespiratory fitness was measured using oxygen uptake while participants used an exercise bike. MRI scans of their brain were then analysed.

The results suggest exercise may contribute to improved brain health and slow the loss of grey matter.

Ronald Petersen, a Mayo Clinic neurologist and lead author, said the most striking feature of the study was the measured effect of exercise on brain structures involved in cognition, rather than motor function.

“This provides indirect evidence that aerobic exercise can have a positive impact on cognitive function in addition to physical conditioning. Another important feature of the study is that these results may apply to older adults as well. There is good evidence for the value of exercise in midlife, but it is encouraging that there can be positive effects on the brain in later life as well,” he said.

The study’s finding of higher grey matter linked to exercise were in brain regions clinically relevant for cognitive changes in ageing, including some involved in Alzheimer’s disease.

However the scientists warned against concluding exercise could affect the disease.

Michael Joyner, a Mayo Clinic anaesthetist and physiologist, added: “This is another piece of the puzzle showing physical activity and physical fitness is protective against ageing-related cognitive decline.

“There’s already good epidemiological evidence for this, as well as emerging data showing that physical activity and fitness are associated with improved brain blood vessel function. This paper is important because of the volumetric data showing an effect on brain structure.”

According to Mayo Clinic experts, moderate and regular exercise – about 150 minutes per week – is recommended, along with a healthy diet, not smoking, losing weight and maintaining healthy blood pressure.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

By clicking ‘Create my account’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in