Exercise Activates Memory in Healthy Older Adults

Time and again when it comes to aging well, it’s a question of “use it or lose it”.  And whether that includes regular exercise or social and cognitive engagement, older adults can help prevent physical and cognitive decline by participating in activities that flex all their muscles.  And a new study, out of the University of Maryland School of Public Health, has found that 30 minutes of moderate exercise can activate areas of the brain associated with memory in healthy older adults. 

According to a recent Medscape Medical News report, researchers found that study participants who did a 30-minute session on a stationary bicycle demonstrated greater activation in four regions of the brain while completing a simple memory test.   The middle frontal gyrus, inferior temporal gyrus, middle temporal gyrus and fusiform gyrus were significantly activated after exercise.  Participants who cycled also showed increased activation of the hippocampus on both sides of the brain during an fMRI(functional magnetic resonance imaging) scan.  The hippocampus is the first region of the brain affected by Alzheimer’s disease and naturally shrinks with age, affecting semantic memory retrieval. 

Researchers suggest that regular exercise over time could help the areas of the brain associated with memory become more efficient and protect the aging brain from cognitive decline.   And although this particular study included only healthy older adults, previous clinical trials have demonstrated the benefits of regular exercise for memory and brain volume among seniors with and without cognitive impairments.  

Learn more about how exercise can enhance cognitive function in older age by following this link to the University of Maryland School of Public Health website.