Several studies have previously linked exercise to assisting with the prevention of physical and cognitive deterioration as we age. However a recently study conducted in Frankfurt by Goethe University may have etched some pivotal mechanistic factors into the history of academic tapestry surrounding the topic.
The study set out to determine what effects exercise had on dementia: a prevalent and increasingly common neurological disorders, which impacts memory, capacity to think and problem-solving.
Dementia is largely influenced by genetic factors and is surfaced as we age.
The study examined the impact exercise has on brain metabolism within a sample of 60 subjects aged 65 to 85.
The study protocol included initial assessment of all subject using an array of brain scanning equipment to ensure the study – published in the medical journal Translational Psychiatry – could deem the success rate of the intervention with valid, quantifiable data.
The cognitive variables tested included movement-related parameters; cardio pulmonary fitness and cognitive performance.
Magnetic resonance tomography (MRT) and magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS) were also used to determine influence on brain metabolism and structure both pre and post-exercise intervention.
The exercise protocol for the subjects required them to cycle on an exercise bike three times a week for 12 weeks; 30 minutes per session. The intensity was unique to each subject’s physical capabilities.
Once the 12 week study period had surpassed researchers got to work examining the study’s intervention impact on cognitive health (brain structure; cognitive performance and brain metabolism). The impact on subject’s physical fitness was also monitored.
The results indicate that regular, structured aerobic exercise leads to an influential adaption of brain metabolism, namely preventing an increase in choline.
Choline levels rise in individuals with the neurodegenerative disease and is typically referred to as the bio-marker indicative of a loss of nerve cells. Compared with the control group – who displayed no reduction of choline – the study’s findings yet again shine a light on the holistic health benefits of exercise, beyond just physiological adaptions.
Unsurprisingly physical fitness was also enhanced, demonstrated by increased cardiac efficiency.