New study shows brain health benefits of physical exercise

Scientific Developments/Breakthroughs

New research has offered insight into how physical exercise can have a positive impact on a person's brain health.

A study from Australia's National Institute of Complementary Medicine at Western Sydney University and the division of psychology and mental health at the University of Manchester has indicated that aerobic exercise can improve memory function and maintain brain health over time.

“Aerobic exercise can help to improve memory function and maintain brain health, according to a new study.“

Researchers systematically reviewed 14 clinical trials examining the brain scans of 737 people before and after aerobic exercise programmes, showing that while exercise had no effect on total hippocampal volume, it did significantly increase the size of the left region of the hippocampus.

The hippocampus plays a critical role in maintaining memory and other brain functions, so these findings suggest that exercise may be helpful in preventing age-related decline by reducing the deterioration of the brain.

Lead author Joseph Firth, postdoctoral research fellow at the National Institute of Complementary Medicine, said: "Rather than actually increasing the size of the hippocampus per se, the main brain benefits are due to aerobic exercise slowing down the deterioration in brain size. In other words, exercise can be seen as a maintenance programme for the brain."

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