Maybe I have an obsession. Maybe I’m addicted to exercise. Maybe. But here it is, once again: Yet another study has shown that aerobic exercise is good for your brain. Not only does aerobic exercise improve cognition (at least 20 or more studies have shown that), but it can help to prevent age-related declines in the size of the hippocampus. The hippocampus is a critically important structure in the brain that is a key part of a circuit that creates new memories.It tends to get smaller with increasing age, but exercise can actually increase its size. The increase in size may be related to increased levels of brain-derived neurotrophic growth factor (BDNF), a substance in the body that promotes the growth of new brain cells.
In an article published online on January 31st in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers show again that regular walking can make a difference in cognition. This study is new because the researchers also looked at the volume of the hippocampus with imaging techniques and looked at BDNF levels.
Exercise and BDNF levels may also be related to the way that antidepressants work to reduce depression, and we know that for many individuals exercise improves mood. While we think of the hippocampus most often because of its role in memory, it also has important effects in regulating emotion.
You can find the abstract here. The full article is available to subscribers only.