We all know that eating well and exercising consistently can help us achieve the best health possible now. But exercise at mid-life might result in more than bigger biceps — it could mean maintaining our brain size as we age.
A recent study published online in the journal Neurology shows a link between physical fitness levels in middle-aged adults and brain size later in life.
As we age, certain parts of the brain shrink, especially the prefrontal cortex (an area at the front of the frontal lobe) and the hippocampus. Both areas are important to learning, memory, planning and other complex mental activities….It found that middle-aged people who had poor cardiovascular fitness and a higher blood pressure and heart rate response to exercise had smaller brain volumes nearly 20 years later.
Cross-sectional and short-term observational studies have shown a link between lower fitness levels and increased brain atrophy in patients with Alzheimer’s disease, the researchers say.
The researchers theorize that exercise training programs may increase blood flow and oxygen delivery to your brain, improve your brain’s ability to reorganize itself by forming new neural connections, and prevent age-related brain atrophy over the short term. But it’s unclear, the researchers say, whether physical fitness throughout all of adulthood has an impact on brain aging in later life.