According to a recent U.S. study, individuals with a focus on aerobic fitness during their middle age years may be able to boost brain health later in life, decreasing the risk of memory loss, and strengthening other important functions of the brain.
Reuters reported that the lead of the study, Qu Tian, a researcher at the National Institute on Aging, and his research team reviewed over 140 older individuals for over ten years as part of the research project. Using treadmills to test and analyze cardiorespiratory fitness, the team also used MRIs to review any changes within the participant’s brain volume. The research study began in 1994, where the individuals involved were approximately in and around 69 years of age. To participate in the study, individuals had to be heathy, free of any cognitive issues, Parkinson’s disease, dementia or other neurological issues. Individuals also needed to have no history of heart, stroke, or lung disease, as well as cancer. When the study began, Tian and his team used mathematical models when it came to estimating what the individual’s fitness levels would be like at the age of 50.
In the end, those participants who proved to be fitter at 50, ended up with increased brain volume as they aged, especially when it came to the middle temporal gyrus; which has been linked to many different functions within the brain, including memory, reading and word meaning, and assessing visual distances. Fitter at 50 participants also had an increased volume of white matter in the brain, which helps decrease the risks of Alzheimer’s disease.
The study supported increased evidence connecting physical activity to increased volumes in specific areas of the brain. Still, Sandra Bond Champman – an expert that was not involved in the project – who is founder and director of the Center for BrainHealth at the University of Texas notes that research studies of this nature tend to engage a crowd of more-educated and healthier individuals; so it is sometimes hard to judge the accuracy of results when looking at the broader scope of the population.
While past studies have provided a connection when it comes to this fitness helping improve brain volumes, it is clear that at the ended of the day, more research is needed to gain a stronger understanding of the links between cardiorespiratory fitness on the brain.