Exercise Helps Increase Size of the Brain’s Hippocampus

Researchers have shown that moderate aerobic exercise is able to improve memory. The research focused on older individuals that already had atrophy of the hippocampus, the structure of the brain associated with all types of the formation of memory.[1]

A hundred and twenty sedentary older individuals not having dementia were randomly put in 1 of 2 groups, individuals who started an exercise program of walking on a track for forty minutes each day, 3 days per week, or individuals restricted to stretching and toning exercises. MRI (magnetic resonance image) was generated prior to the study, 6 months after, and at also the conclusion of the twelve month study.

The aerobic exercise group showed an increase in volume of the right and left hippocampus of 1.97% and 2.12%, respectively. The identical areas of the brain in individuals who performed stretching exercises decreased in volume by 1.43% and 1.40%, respectively.

Spatial memory tests were carried out for all individuals at the 3 intervals. Individuals in the aerobic exercise group exhibited improved memory function, when compared to their performance at the beginning of the research, an improvement related to the increased size of the hippocampus. The researcher also looked at several biomarkers related to brain health, which included (BDNF) brain-derived neurotrophic factor, a tiny molecule that’s involved in memory and learning. The researchers noticed that the increases in hippocampus size were related to increased amounts of BDNF.

Although atrophy of the hippocampus in later years is thought of as almost inevitable, this study has shown that even moderate exercise for a single year is able to increase the size of the hippocampus structure.

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