Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News


Is physical fitness important to your brain fitness?

Here is ques­tion 18 of 25 from Brain Fit­ness 101: Answers to Your Top 25 Ques­tions.Trail Runner

Is phys­i­cal fit­ness impor­tant to your brain fit­ness?

Key Points:

  • Exer­cise improves learn­ing through increased blood sup­ply and growth hor­mones.
  • Exer­cise is an anti-depres­sant by reduc­ing stress and pro­mot­ing neu­ro­ge­n­e­sis.
  • Exer­cise pro­tects the brain from dam­age and dis­ease, as well as speed­ing the recov­ery.
  • Exer­cise ben­e­fits you the most when you start young.


Yes. 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 Chil­drens 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

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