Aerobic exercise can improve memory in older people.
There is a very small structure in the center of our brain called the hippocampus. It is smaller than your little finger, but it plays a crucial role in learning and memory. The hippocampus encodes new information so that we can recall it later. Without the hippocampus, we would not be able to form new memories; We can only remember the old.
An elderly couple walked hand in hand on the streets of Berlin. A recent study showed that walking increases memory in the brain region.
Patrick Sinkel/AFP via Getty Images.
As part of normal aging, the hippocampus shrinks. As we age, this atrophy accelerates, signaling memory problems and alzheimer’s disease.
But there’s some good news in the past decade: scientists have found that in some areas of the aging brain, new cells are born and raised throughout life. Alpert medical school and brown university in Rhode Island hospital researchers, neuroscientist Peter Snyder, says Peter Snyder) (the hippocampus is to continue to form new cells and between cells establish new contact one of the areas of the brain.
“We found that all these innocuous interventions seem to be the most effective exercise on this point – more effective than nutritional supplements, vitamins and cognitive interventions,” snyder said. We can do our brain age to keep our memories.
The power of motion
Snyder says several studies have been published recently on the power of exercise to the brain.
“The literature on sports is huge,” he said. “We found that exercise – aerobic exercise, regular moderate – chemical changes in the brain promote the growth of new neurons in [the hippocampus].”
In aerobic exercise, the main chemical changes in the hippocampus is the brain of BDNF protein increases, the protein by nutrition new connections between neurons in the process of the birth of new brain cells play a role as a fertilizer.
Some of the most challenging evidence of brain activity comes from a study published in the proceedings of the national academy of sciences by neuroscientist Art Kramer of the university of Illinois at urbana-champaign. Kramer and his colleagues have documented the effects of a small number of older adults exercising on the hippocampus in a year.
“The participants in our study were 120 very sedentary people,” Kramer said.
They did not add any dementia or memory problems when they entered the study. “They are relatively healthy, but definitely” couch potatoes “can be used as labels.
Let the couch potatoes move.
One of the volunteers, couch potato, was a half-retired university professor, Gregory Stanton, 66. He admitted that he didn’t exercise regularly, but countered that he was in good health and was transforming his home. So he calls himself “half couch potato”.
Stanton and 120 other men and women ranged from 60 to 80 years old. When they entered the study, they were randomly divided into two groups.
“One is an aerobic exercise group,” says Kramer. “Those who walked faster and faster over time, while others in our control group were in a healthy, relaxed, strong group.”
Stanton was randomly assigned to the aerobics group.
“Basically, it was walking on a track in the gym,” Stanton said. He and the rest of the aerobics group walked 40 minutes a week, once a year. Mr. Stanton says he averages about three miles per game. After every meeting, he said, he was trying to breathe, sweating swe back.
Kramer explained that the idea was to have each participant walk fast enough to reach the level of aerobic exercise, which is generally considered to be 70 percent of a person’s maximum heart rate.
Walkers perform better.
All of the study participants completed MRI brain scans before the study began, and the study ended a year later. Then the researchers analyzed the MRI data.
“We found that,” Kramer said, “the volume of individuals in the aerobic group increased.”
Increase in volume – again for cardio, but not for non-aerobic groups – about 2%.
“We can imagine that this growth of 2 percent is about two years from now,” kramer said.
In contrast, “people in the control group — in the toning and stretching group — lost about 1.5 percent of the hippocampal volume,” Kramer said. “So we can argue that this gap is about 3.5 percent compared to those who don’t.”
The results were small but suggestive. The findings suggest that aerobic exercise not only protects normal contractions, but also allows new cells to be added to the hippocampus. The researchers also found that the important brain chemical compounds BDNF significantly increased in the plasma of the aerobic exercise group – but not in the control group.
The effect on memory.
But will the growth of the hippocampus translate into improved memory? Both groups had memory tests before and after the year’s exercise program. These tests, kramer says, specialize in a type of memory called “spatial memory,” which records our environmental information, such as the layout of a neighborhood or the interior of a grocery store.
At the beginning of the study, aerobic and non-aerobic groups scored similar points in spatial memory tests. But after a year of projects, the aerobic exercise group’s spatial memory tests improved significantly, and their scores were higher than a year ago. After a year of stretching, toning and light lifting, the non-aerobic group memory did not improve.
As for the “half couch potato” Stanton in cardio, he said he didn’t notice any improvement in his memory. The question of remembering names still exists. But he did notice that after a year of aerobic walking, he had more energy.
Still, Stanton says, he still doesn’t plan to exercise regularly. He said that while he knew it was good for him, he couldn’t find the time, like many of us. He is too busy.