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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As seen in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, BBC News, CNN, Reuters,  SharpBrains is an independent market research firm tracking how brain science can improve our health and our lives.

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