As humans age their brain begins to shrink, normal aging sees the death of brain cells and the increase in the amount of grey matter. However, a recent study conducted at Edinburgh University has reported that exercise could delay and even prevent the shrinkage of the brain.
Researchers scanned the brains of 638 people who were over the age of 70. The amount of physical exercise they participated in daily was recorded and compared to the changes in brain function and size over a three year period.
It was reported that individuals who were most physically active showed fewest signs of brain decline in both structure and function. The results were compared to mental exercise such as the daily crosswords; it was only physical exercise that had an impact on the reduction of brain shrinkage.
The researchers reported that they could not be sure that the link between exercise and brain structure was due to the fact that exercise increases the amount of blood flowing to the brain bringing enhanced oxygenated blood and nutrients to brain cells. The results could have arisen due to the fact that as individuals brains deteriorate, they lose the motivation or will to exercise.
The results are significant as they showed that even just a small amount of exercise could significantly improve brain health, as well as having other benefits on emotional wellbeing.