How Exercise Can Benefit Your Brain

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Aerobic exercise, resistance training (such as weight lifting), and tai chi can all boost brain function in people older than 50, concludes a review published today in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.

Those mind-strengthening benefits even provided a boost to those who were already suffering from mild cognitive impairment, which is often a precursor to Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.

The researchers also found that “multicomponent” programs--which combine aerobic exercise and resistance training as recommended by the U.S. Physical Activity Guidelines—were particularly effective in boosting brain health.

Resistance training and aerobic exercise each release different types of compounds that “help support the growth of neurons in the brain,” says study author Joe Northey, a Ph.D. candidate in exercise physiology at the University of Canberra Research Institute for Sport and Exercise in Australia. “Doing both may be providing a ‘sweet spot’ for brain health.”

“What’s good for the body is good for the brain,” says exercise physiologist and neuroscientist Dianna Purvis Jaffin, Ph.D., director of strategy and programs at the Brain Performance Institute at The University of Texas at Dallas. “We know that people who have higher levels of cardiovascular fitness tend to have larger brain volume, but both aerobic exercise and strength training are important.”

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