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We already know that a sedentary lifestyle, often brought about by long hours sitting at a desk at work or spending too much time on the couch after we’ve clocked off, presents a number of unwanted challenges to our physical health. But there is new research gathering to suggest that being active doesn’t just improve our physical fitness, but it benefits our brains too, providing longevity for our cognitive ability.
A recent study published by Neurobiology of Learning and Memory has investigated the impact of aerobic exercise on the medial temporal lobe (MTL). The MTL is one of the regions of the brain that is the first to suffer signs of Alzheimer’s disease and, due to its neuroplasticity, is sensitive to the effects of exercise. During a trial involving older African Americans in Newark, NJ, researchers were able to show that following the aerobic sessions, the brain’s memory center networks began to reconfigure in ways that benefited memory function.
Functional magnetic resonance imaging technology observed that exercise improved the ‘Flexibility’ of the brain’s networks, leading scientists to believe that physical activity induces greater cognitive ability. The subjects were tested and showed improvements in critical thinking, and memory recall, illustrating that the aerobic sessions impacted the brains’ complex network of neurons, causing them to provide a protective and rehabilitative effect on MTL function.
This latest confirmation that aerobic exercise is mentally beneficial follows on from previous studies such as those that have shown how running contributes to a sharper mind and gives us further reason to combat a sedentary lifestyle with regular physical activity, particularly as we age. It’s good to know that staying active is beneficial for our hearts and our minds.