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Benefit of Exercise to the Brain - Articles - Nurses Arena Forum

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Benefit of Exercise to the Brain by Adigun : March 18, 2015, 10:49:11 AM
Exercise may boost size of some brain regions

Exercise may increase the size of brain regions that contribute to balance and coordination, preliminary research suggests.


Increased brain volume


The small new study in twins found that those who exercised more had increased brain volume in areas of the brain related to movement.


These changes "may have health
implications in the long-term, such as possibly reducing the risk of falling and mobility limitations in older age," said study co-author Dr. Urho Kujala, professor of sports and exercise medicine at the University of Jyvaskyla in Finland.


However, the study authors can't definitively say that more exercise caused more brain
volume in these areas.

In addition, it's not clear what benefit these bigger brain regions might offer, and the researchers don't know how much exercise is needed to prompt a change in size.


Physical activity has been linked to a number of improved outcomes, such as lower levels
of body fat, reduced heart disease risk factors, better memory and thinking, and a lower risk of type 2 diabetes , according to background
information in the study.

Kujala said the researchers launched the current study
because they wanted to better understand how physical activity in leisure time affects
the brain.


For the study, the researchers chose 10 pairs of identical twins. The participants were all men aged 32 to 36 years. The study focused on identical twins because they share the same DNA, allowing researchers to study how the environment affects their bodies.


In each pair of twins, one brother had exercised more over the past three years than
the other. The twins reported getting about the same levels of exercise at earlier times in
their lives.

"On average, the more active members of twin pairs were jogging 3 hours more per week compared to their inactive co-twins," Kujala said.

The impact exercise has on brain size

All of the twins had MRI scans of their brains so that the researchers could see what
impact exercise had on the size of the brain and specific regions of the brain.

Exercise didn't seem to affect the size of the entire brain, but there was a connection between more exercise and more brain volume in areas related to movement, Kujala
said.

The researchers also found that the twins who exercised more did a better job of controlling their blood sugar, potentially
reducing the risk of diabetes.

That finding isn't particularly surprising because physical
fitness has previously been linked to lower rates of diabetes .

Rong Zhang, an associate professor who studies exercise at the University of Texas
Southwestern Medical Centre at Dallas, said the study is interesting, but he cautioned
about its weaknesses.

It only looks at a very small number of men and doesn't follow the participants over time
to see what happens to them, he said.For that reason, it's impossible to know if factors other than exercise may be affecting the brain regions, he explained.

Study unclear Zhang added that the study doesn't make it clear if having larger brain regions is helpful in any way, although it's possible that they may provide a kind of reserve brainpower
that could be good to have in old age.

Brad Roy, executive director of the Kalispell Regional Medical Centre’s Summit Medical Fitness Centre in Montana, also noted that the study is small, and he added that it says
nothing about women. Still, "the study results are one more
important validation in regard to the positive influence physical activity has on the brain, its function, and overall personal health and
well-being," Roy said.

"This study reinforces a greatly
under appreciated fact, that regular exercise has a powerful health impact throughout the
body, including the brain," Roy said.

"The take-home message: move!"

The study is published in the March issue of the journal Medicine & Science in Sports &
Exercise .

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