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Fitness helps the brain function as we age

03/30/2016

Written by: Julia Basso , PhD

Affiliation: Post-doctoral Research Associate, New York University, Center for Neural Science

For the past 40 years, the world’s leading experts on learning and memory have gathered in Park City, Utah to discuss the newest and most exciting research on the brain’s ability to learn and remember information. I recently attended this year’s conference, which hosted the first ever panel on “Current Topics in the Neurobiology of Exercise and the Brain”.  Speakers included Monika Fleshner who gave a talk on early life exercise and the gut microbiota as well as Henriette Van Praag who discussed how running alters the structure and function of a brain region known as the dentate gyrus (where adult neurogenesis occurs). Another speaker, Michelle Voss, Assistant Professor at the University of Iowa, talked about the relationship between physical activity and fitness with functional brain health in older adults.  Importantly, she emphasized a major missing hole in the literature.  That is, we do not understand how physical activity “protects the brain from the adverse effects of aging.”  This then leads to the problem of not knowing how to prescribe the right exercise regimen for aging.  Voss and her colleagues recently conducted research to address these issues.

Research has shown a significant relationship between cardiorespiratory fitness (VO2 max) and brain health.  Specifically, individuals who are more fit tend to have healthier brain structure (greater brain volume), higher levels of cognitive functioning, and less risk of cognitive decline and dementia-related death though not all studies have found this association...

This post is an excerpt from an article, originally published in FastTwitchGrandma, and is reprinted here with permission. Click here to read the full article (and other relevant articles) at FastTwitchGrandma.