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Exercising is Good for the Brain's Gray Matter

Any exercise that gets your heart pumping is good for the body, but does the same apply for the brain?

A study for neurodegenerative diseases from a German Center has found evidence between cardiorespiratory exercise and brain health in areas involving brain volume and gray matter. This are the parts of the brain involved with cognitive decline and aging. Brain tissue is made up of gray matter, which correlates with cognitive abilities and different skills. Brain tissue is also composed of cell bodies, and filaments called white matter, which extend out to our cells. Studies have shown that increased oxygen uptake increases gray matter.

A study conducted in Germany involved 2,013 adults who were examined in phases from 1997-2012. Cardiorespiratory fitness was measured while the participants exercised using a bike. They brain was also analyzed using a MRI machine. The results showed how exercise contributed to brain improvement and gray matter.

Ronald Peterson, a neurologist noted that the two most interesting features of the study were, "Measuring the effect of exercise on brain structure and that the results may also apply to older adults."

Higher gray matter volume associated with exercise are in regions involved with aging and Alzheimer's disease. This is another piece of the puzzle showing physical activity and physical fitness is protective against age-related cognitive decline," says Michael Joyner. Long-term studies will be needed to produce even more encouraging data.

According to data, moderate and regular exercise, about 150 minutes a week is necessary. Good cardiorespiratory fitness also involves:

  • No smoking

  • Following healthy eating habits

  • Losing weight or maintaining a healthy weight level

  • Managing blood pressure and avoiding hypertension

  • Controlling cholesterol levels

  • Reducing blood sugar, which over time can damage your heart and other organs

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