Research by Erikson, Kirk; Voss, Michelle; Prakash, Ruchika; Basak, Chandramallika; Szabo, Amanda; Chaddock, Laura; Kim, Jennifer; Heo, Susie; Alves, Heloisa; White, Siobhan; Wojcicki, Thomas; Mailey, Emily; Vieira, Victoria; Martin, Stephen; Pence, Brandt; Woods, Jeffrey; McAuley, Edward; Kramer, Arthur (2011). Exercise training increases size of hippocampus and improves memory. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences,108(7), 3017 3022.https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1015950108
Written by Robin N. Fatovic M.S.
The human brain changes over time. The hippocampus, or the area of the brain responsible for memory, shrinks about 1-2% per year as we age. Is it possible to reverse this change?
Psychology and health researchers studied whether exercise could impact this change in the aging brain. They recruited 60 older adults to engage in a walking exercise and 60 to engage in stretching. Before the study, they all had blood draws, computerized memory tests, and brain scans. After 6 months, they had another brain scan and completed a memory test. They completed all parts again 1 year after the study ended.
Results? The front part of the hippocampus grew by 2% after 1 year for the walking group, while it shrank about 1.4% in the stretching group. Both groups showed memory improvements after 1 year.
Although the brain naturally declines over time, this research shows that exercise can reverse this. Get moving! Protect your brain against dementia in older age. Add exercise, like walking, into your life. Don’t forget to ask your doctor before starting a new exercise routine!