Brain enhancement also occurs in adults and prevents dementia. Sport increases the blood flow in the brain, supplying memory areas
Physical activity can work wonders for the body. Exercise tones your muscles, corrects posture does lose weight And improves mood. But sport can also boost the brain, making it more plastic and capable of slowing down degenerative phenomena. More and more studies show that the brains of those who train regularly are very different from that of those who are sedentary.
Benefits at school
The changes begin already in adolescence. Researchers at the University of Southern California, reviewing the 2018 scientific literature, found that physically active boys aged 15 to 18 tended to have larger hippocampal volume (associated with memory and spatial navigation) and the middle frontal gyrus, linked to the regulation of emotions and working memory. Over the years, numerous works have shown that structural changes of this type result in better cognitive performance And better academic results. In fact, sport increases blood flow to the brain by helping to supply those brain areas, such as the hippocampus, which play an important role in memory and learning. Physical activity also facilitates the release of the brain-derived neurotrophic factor, Bdnf, a protein that has a neuroprotective effect and favors the formation of new neurons and synapses explains Gianfranco Beltrami, specialist in sports medicine, national vice president of the Italian Sports Medical Federation. According to studies carried out on animals, not all physical activities would lead to the same benefits. Swimming, running or cycling seem to stimulate the production of nerve cells better (and counteracting brain aging) versus anaerobic activities such as weight lifting. The stress of intense, anaerobic workouts could hamper hippocampal neurogenesis, he suggests Miriam Nokia of the University
of Jyvskyl in Finladia, which a few months ago published a study on Journal of Physiology in which he compared sedentary mice, runners and addicted to weightlifting.
The good news that brain enhancement also extends into adulthood, when the brain tends to be less modifiable. Psychologists at the University of Pittsburg have just published a review showing that regular exercise can help older adults retain episodic memory – events that have occurred in the past – with greater improvements between the ages of 55 and 68 than in over 69 (so better not waste time). Research published a year ago in Aging by Rutgers University in New Jersey compared two groups of sedentary seniors: those who trained for 20 weeks with cardio-dance exercises were shown to achieve significant improvements in neuronal flexibility of the hippocampus. (measured by functional magnetic resonance imaging) which results in a greater ability to apply old memories to new tasks and situations.
The effect of exercise on Alzheimer’s patients was also measured. A 2016 American study published in Plos One concluded that volunteers who had aerobic activity for 150 minutes a week for 26 weeks performed better in assessing dementia than another group who only did stretching and toning work.
With age, the brain undergoes physiological changes: there is a decrease in its weight of about 5 percent every decade (which is accentuated after the age of 70). Neurons decrease – explains Beltrami – and cerebral blood flow is also reduced, which leads to a limited availability of some neurotransmitters, such as dopamine and serotonin, resulting in a decline in cognitive and motor performance and decreased ability to form new nerve cells. However, it seems certain that physical activity, by improving circulation and therefore tissue oxygenation in the brain, can prevent the development of dementia and other neurological diseases.
June 12, 2022 (change June 12, 2022 | 19:23)
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