Aerobic exercise improves cognitive function says new research.
A new study has found that aerobic exercise can help improve the brain function of adults with mild cognitive impairment. Mild cognitive impairment is a warning sign for further brain damage and can lead to dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
Presented at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA), the research used a new high-resolution MRI technique to measure anatomical changes to provide the researchers with both volumetric and directional information on the participants’ brains.
Participants were divided into a stretching group, who did only stretching movements, and an aerobic activity group, who performed cardio exercises such as treadmill and stationary bike or elliptical training. Both groups performed their exercise four times a week over a six-month period.
The results showed that both groups experienced a brain volume increase in most gray matter regions, including the temporal lobe, the area of the brain that support short-term memory. However, the aerobic exercise group had a greater improvement.
“Compared to the stretching group, the aerobic activity group had greater preservation of total brain volume, increased local gray matter volume and increased directional stretch of brain tissue,” said Dr. Jeongchul Kim, a co-author of the study.
Further, analysis showed that the stretching group showed some white matter atrophy, meaning this group’s brains may have been actually deteriorating.
Post-study, participants were also tested on cognitive function. The aerobic group showed a statistically significant improvement in ‘executive function’, while the stretching group did not improve.
These results are similar to another recent study on people with MCI, which found strength training helped slow the degradation of the brain.
“Any type of exercise can be beneficial,” Dr. Kim said. “If possible, aerobic activity may create potential benefits for higher cognitive functioning.”