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Keeping fit boosts brain power and size, scientists say

Keeping fit boosts brain power and size, scientists say

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DEVON, England, Monday May 9, 2016 – Scientists have found evidence to support what many people have suspected for years: physical activity not only keeps people fit and trim, but boosts brain power as well.

The researchers found that in addition to thinking more clearly and having better memories, people who keep fit are more likely to have larger brains.

In contrast, unfit people tend to have reduced cognitive skills and smaller brains.

The findings of the latest studies, which were published in the journal NeuroImage, add to a growing body of evidence that links exercise to helping protect the brain against ageing and also helping it to replace dying cells.

It is thought that this might reduce the risk of debilitating illnesses and diseases such as Alzheimer’s.

Linda Clare, professor of clinical psychology of ageing and dementia at Exeter University and a member of the Global Council on Brain Health told The Sunday Times: “Moderate-intensity aerobic activity such as brisk walking, cycling or running can produce changes in brain structure and function.

“These changes increase cognitive reserve, making the brain more resilient to neuropathology.”

One research paper in the latest issue of NeuroImage documents scientists at Kentucky University putting 30 adults aged 59-69 on a treadmill.

Their heart and lung capacity was measured and an MRI scanner was used to assess the blood flow to their brains.

Those who were less fit had smaller brains compared to the fitter volunteers who had larger brains.

“We observed a positive relationship between cardio-respiratory fitness and cerebral blood flow,” the scientists wrote.

Conversely: “Low measures of resting cardiac function are associated with smaller brain volumes, delayed recall and poorer cognitive performance.”

They added that the results showed that: “Maintaining fitness through regular activity and exercise is instrumental in preserving brain health late in life [whereas] declines in cardiac function are associated with cognitive impairment.”

Researchers are not yet sure why exercise helps to protect brain cells, but some research in mice has produced promising results.

In mice examined at the National Institute on Aging in Baltimore, cells in the hippocampus, an area of the brain used for memory, were actively reproducing in fit, trim animals, while their fatter counterparts were in decline.

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