Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Do this 3 days a week and you may increase the size of your brain

If you are a senior citizen and intent on improving your memory, you may be interested in the results of a recent study that associated improvements in memory with moderate exercise.

The study – led by Dr. Kirk Erickson from the University of Pittsburgh and Dr. Arthur Kramer from the University of Illinois, and supported by the National Institute on Aging (NIA) – revealed that walking (at a brisk pace) can increase the size of the brain.  Specifically, the hippocampus, an area linked to mammalian memory development.

What causes us to lose our memory as we age?  The hippocampus is a “major component of the brain . . . and plays important roles in the consolidation of information from short-term memory to long-term memory and spatial navigation. “ You can read the Wikipedia article on the hippocampus here; it is actually quite detailed.
The study examined 120 inactive older adults.  Half of the participants were asked to walk for a period of 40 minutes a day, 3 days a week.  The second half of participants were instructed to in weight train and stretch.
One year later, each participant was analyzed via MRI.  The group that engaged in the brisk walk for 3 days per week showed an average 2% increase in hippocampus volume, whereas the other group averaged a 1.4% decrease in volume.

What does this mean? "We think of the atrophy of the hippocampus in later life as almost inevitable . . . [but] we've shown that even moderate exercise for one year can increase the size of that structure,” explained one of the researchers behind the study.   For the article in its entirety, view it here
Photographer: Idea go

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