Countless studies have demonstrated the benefits of physical exercise for preventing cognitive impairment and dementia as we get older. This study explores how brain metabolism is affected by exercise.
To get a better understanding of how physical activity positively influences the brain, sports physicians and gerontologists recruited 60 participants between the ages of 65 and 85 to explore how regular exercise affects memory and brain metabolism in a randomized controlled trial. The conclusion was that regular physical exercise enhances fitness and also impacts brain metabolism positively.
All the study participants were thoroughly examined by assessing cognitive performance, movement-related parameters and cardiopulmonary fitness. Magnetic resonance spectroscopy and magnetic resonance tomography were also made use of for measuring brain structure and brain metabolism. After the examination, study participants rode an exercise bike 3 times/week over a 12 week period. The training sessions of 30 minutes were individually adapted to the performance level of each participant. After the completion of the training programme, the participants were once again examined to determine how this physical activity affected cognitive performance, brain structure and brain metabolism. To what extent exercise had improved the physical fitness of the participants was also investigated.
Brain metabolism was influenced by physical activity preventing an increase in choline. Concentrations of this metabolite often increase due to the increased nerve cell loss, which usually happens in Alzheimer’s. Stable cerebral choline concentrations were seen in the physical exercise training group, but an increase in levels of choline was seen in the non-exercise control group. Physical fitness obviously also improved, an increase in cardiac efficiency was experienced after the training programme. Overall, these results indicate that physical exercise improves physical fitness as well as protects brain cells.