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In the News

Psychology in the News | Does Exercise Benefit the Brain?

Rosey Gardiner-Earl

29th January 2024

A recent study in the ‘Journal of Alzheimer's Disease’ has found a link between regular physical activity and increased size of key brain regions.

The international study analysed MRI brain scans from over 10,000 individuals. Results showed people who exercised regularly had greater grey and white matter brain volume. Grey matter processes information, and white matter connects different brain areas. The hippocampus, important for memory, was also larger in active people.

Cyrus Raji, the lead researcher, explains: ‘Our research supports earlier studies that show being physically active is good for your brain. Exercise not only lowers the risk of dementia but also helps in maintaining brain size, which is crucial as we age.’The researchers found that activity levels did not need to be as high as you might think, with even moderate physical activity (e.g. 4,000 steps daily) benefitting brain health. This is much less than the often-recommended 10,000 steps, meaning for many people this represents a realistic goal to improve brain health.

Co-author Somayeh Meysami says, ‘This links regular activity to larger brain volumes, suggesting neuroprotective effects. It furthers our understanding of lifestyle factors in brain health.’Editor of the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, Dr. George Perry said, ‘This demonstrates the influence of exercise and diet, stress reduction, and social connection as proven drug-free ways to substantially lower Alzheimer’s disease.’

The researchers conclude regular activity predicts healthier brain aging. Simple lifestyle steps like daily walks benefit long-term brain health.

ANSWER THE FOLLOWING QUESTIONS

1. What was the aim of the piece of research described in this blog?

2. Which types of long-term memory are associated with the hippocampus area of the brain?

3. Discuss issues relating to cause-and-effect conclusions in the link found between exercise
and brain volume.

4. How could you use your knowledge of social influence processes to promote healthy ageing
in the general population, using this research?
Challenge: what could be the economic implications of this research?

References

1. IOS Press. "Exercise can boost brain health." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 13 December 2023. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2023/12/231213155230.htm

2. Cyrus A. Raji, Somayeh Meysami, Sam Hashemi, Saurabh Garg, Nasrin Akbari, Gouda Ahmed, Yosef Gavriel Chodakiewitz, Thanh Duc Nguyen, Kellyann Niotis, David A. Merrill, Rajpaul Attariwala. Exercise-Related Physical Activity Relates to Brain Volumes in 10,125 Individuals. Journal of Alzheimer's Disease, 2023; 1 DOI: 10.3233/JAD-230740

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Rosey Gardiner-Earl

Rosey has 15 years of experience teaching Psychology and has worked as both a Subject and Senior Leader in school and large sixth form setting. Rosey is also an experienced A level Psychology examiner.

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