A recent research conducted in the U.S. shows that individuals who’re more physically fit in their middle age are more likely to maintain healthier brains in their late adulthood. Provided that they’ve never experienced cognitive impairment, they can preserve memory and other functions for more than 20 years to come. During this test, 146 older adults were put under treadmill test for more than 10 years to determine their level of cardiorespiratory wellness. Other tests were also carried out to detect variations in their brain volume using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).
All participants in the research which dates back to 1994 had no history of cognitive illnesses, Parkinson’s disease, dementia and other neurological illnesses. Other diseases which were avoided during the study were cancer, stroke, heart or lung disease. The fitness levels of all those who were 50 year old at that time were calculated using mathematical models.
Those who were physically fit at 50 were found to have larger brain volume in later years in the central temporal gyrus (thought to facilitate visual perception, memory and language) and perirhinal cortex (believed to improve unconscious memory and object identification). They also had higher levels of white matter which is believed to prevent Alzheimer’s disease.
The study also established that the middle frontal and angular gyri (parts of the cerebral cortex of the brain) of individuals who’re healthy in their midlife seemed to shrink slowly, symbolizing better cardiorespiratory well-being in their advanced old age.
The outcome of the research is a great milestone to other findings which associates exercising to increased volume in some parts of the brain. However, it’s hard to prove if these results apply to the general population because these types of long-lasting studies tend to attract individuals who’re healthy and well-educated. Moreover, different people achieve different gains from similar amount of exercise, and it’s quite overwhelming for scientists to determine the relationship between fitness and cognitive ability. It’s also difficult to differentiate between cause and effect in the research.
The most challenging question that’s giving the researchers sleepless nights is whether exercising can make someone smarter or if smarter individuals tend do more exercise that others.
While the main objective of the current study was to find out if cardiorespiratory wellness can increase the volume of brain, other studies which were done previously associate cardiorespiratory fitness to improved recollection of specific events or names. This type of fitness was also linked individual’s ability to plan their activities well and to multitask.
Kirk Erickson, a researcher at the Brain Aging & Cognitive Health Lab at the University of Pittsburgh commented that extra study is required to be conducted in larger groups of people to understand comprehensively the effect of cardiorespiratory health on the brain.
All in all, the research adds more facts to the previous studies which have been constantly linking physical fitness in midlife to brain wellness in the late adulthood. Therefore, if you’re in your middle age and aware of how exercising now can benefit you later, then, it’s a good thing to start your workouts as soon as possible.