How exercise may keep your brain healthy

How does exercise help your brain health?
How does exercise help your brain health?

Exercise may do more than build body strength: New research shows it might also keep brain cells in shape.

According to the study, exercise helps maintain the brain's gray matter, which is linked to various skills and thinking abilities. So, keeping your gray matter intact may help prevent thinking declines, the German researchers explained.

The report was published online in the Mayo Clinic Proceedings.

Improving cognitive function

"This [study] provides indirect evidence that aerobic exercise can have a positive impact on cognitive function in addition to physical conditioning," said Dr. Ronald Petersen, a Mayo Clinic neurologist.

"Another important feature of the study is that these results may apply to older adults, as well. There is good evidence for the value of exercise in midlife, but it is encouraging that there can be positive effects on the brain in later life as well," said Petersen, who co-authored an editorial that accompanied the report.

Exercise and brain scans

The German researchers, led by Katharina Wittfeld, followed more than 2 000 adults in northeastern Germany from 1997 through 2012. Over the study period, fitness was measured and participants underwent MRI brain scans.

Although the study found an association between exercise and brain health, it couldn't prove a cause-and-effect relationship.

According to Mayo Clinic experts, moderate and regular exercise – about 150 minutes per week – is recommended. Good fitness also involves:

  • Not smoking.
  • Following healthy eating habits.
  • Maintaining a healthy weight.
  • Keeping a low blood pressure.
  • Controlling cholesterol levels.
  • Reducing blood sugar.

Image credit: iStock

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For only R75 per month, you have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today.
Subscribe to News24
Voting Booth
Have you entered our Health of the Nation survey?
Please select an option Oops! Something went wrong, please try again later.
Results
Yes
33% - 9365 votes
No
67% - 19346 votes
Vote