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Exercise and The Brain in Newsweek

The new edition of Newsweek brings us a great cover story titled Stronger, Faster, Smarter. “Exercise does more than build muscles and help prevent heart disease. New science shows that it also boosts brainpower—and may offer hope in the battle against Alzheimer’s.” Check it out!

We addressed the question Is physical fitness important to your brain fitness? recently:

According to Fred Gage, PhD, of the Salk Institute for Biological Studies, “We now know that exercise helps generate new brain cells, even in the aging brain.

According to the research of Richard Smeyne, PhD at Saint Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, with just two months of exercise there are more brain cells and that higher levels of exercise were significantly more beneficial than lower amounts, although any exercise was better than none. He also found that starting an exercise program early in life to be an effective way to lower the risk of developing Parkinson’s disease later in life.

As little as three hours a week of brisk walking has been shown to halt, and even reverse, the brain shrinkage that starts in a person’s 40s, especially in the regions responsible for memory and higher cognition. The exercise increased the brain’s volume of gray matter (actual neurons) and white matter (connections between neurons).

Increased blood flow to the brain triggers biochemical changes that spur the production of new brain neurons. Brain exercise then protects these fledgling neurons by bathing them in nerve growth factor and forming functional connections with neighboring neurons.

Dr. Kramer said “After only three months, the people who exercised had the brain volumes of people three years younger. This is the first time anyone has shown that exercise increases brain volume in the elderly. It suggests that aerobic exercise can stave off neural decline, and even roll back some normal age-related deterioration of brain structure.

Further Reading

And don’t forget that good brain health requires, on top on physical exercise, sound nutrition, stress management AND mental exercise.

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4 Responses

  1. Kate Anderson says:

    I would like more information, please. I am especailly interested in the “Train the Trainer” program.

  2. Alvaro says:

    Hello Kate: will send you information offline. Thanks for contacting us.

  3. Karen Lovaas says:

    Do you know where I can see a copy of the Small and Gage study? Thank you!

  4. Alvaro says:

    Hello Karen,

    You can find all the abstracts to Gage’s papers in PubMed or Google Scholar
    http://scholar.google.com/scholar?hl=en&q=fred+gage&spell=1

    They usually require subscription-you can probably get the whole papers in your closest university

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