Aerobic exercises (Brisk walking, Running, Jogging or Swimming) for four times a week may increase brain volume in people with mild cognitive impairment (MCI), a condition linked with higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, a new study has found.
Participants in the aerobic exercise group showed statistically significant improvement in executive function after six months, whereas the stretching group did not improve.
“Even over a short period of time, we saw aerobic exercise lead to a remarkable change in the brain,” said the study’s lead investigator, Laura D. Baker, Ph.D., from Wake Forest School of Medicine (WFSM) in Winston-Salem, N.C.
The results, based on the high-resolution MRI images acquired from participants before the intervention and after six months, revealed that for both the aerobic and stretching groups, brain volume increased in most gray matter regions, including the temporal lobe, which supports short-term memory.
“Any type of exercise can be beneficial. But, aerobic activity may create potential benefits for higher cognitive functioning,” said Jeongchul Kim, Ph.D., co-investigator on the study from WFSM, US.
“Compared to the stretching group, the aerobic activity group had greater preservation of total brain volume, increased local gray matter volume and brain tissue,” Kim said.
The study was presented at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA) in Chicago, US.