Numerous studies have shown that exercise has beneficial effects for the brain as well as the body.

Now a new study, in the journal Neurology, shows one mechanism by which these protective effects may work.

By maintaining insulin and body mass index levels, exercise appears to help maintain brain volume, which is crucial in fighting off dementia.

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Exercise and the brain: new research

“These results may help us to understand how physical activity affects brain health, which may guide us in developing strategies to prevent or delay age-related decline in memory and thinking skills,” said study author Géraldine Poisnel, PhD, of Inserm Research Center in Caen, France.

“Older adults who are physically active gain cardiovascular benefits, which may result in greater structural brain integrity.”

The study took 134 people with an average age of 69 who had no memory problems. They filled out surveys about their physical activity over the past year, and then had brain scans to measure volume and glucose metabolism. Further information was gathered on BMI, insulin levels, cholesterol, blood pressure and other factors.

The study showed that people who did the most physical activity had a higher total volume of grey matter in their brains than people with the least amount of physical activity, with an average of about 550,000 cubic millimeters (mm³) compared to about 540,000 mm³. When researchers took a closer look at areas of the brain affected by Alzheimer’s disease, they found the same results.

Those who were most active also had a higher average rate of glucose metabolism in the brain than those who were least active.

Higher physical activity was not, however, associated with the volume of amyloid plaque people had in their brains, a marker for Alzheimer’s disease.

Revealed: how exercise can help ward off cancer!


Scientists at Newcastle University have revealed how exercised can lower your risk of getting bowel cancer and slow the growth of tumours.

The scientists showed that exercise causes interleukin-6 (IL-6), a cancer-fighting protein, to be released into the bloodstream.

Dr Sam Orange, Lecturer in Exercise Physiology at Newcastle University, said: “Previous scientific evidence suggests that more exercise is better for reducing bowel cancer risk as the more physical activity people do, the lower their chances of getting it. Our findings support this idea.

“When exercise is repeated multiple times each week over an extended period, cancer-fighting substances — such as IL-6 — released into the bloodstream have the opportunity to interact with abnormal cells, repairing their DNA and reducing growth into cancer.”

The new research took place in the form of a small-scale study, which will be used as “proof of principle” for further research.

Click here to read more about this amazing new research

According to Poisnel, more research is needed to understand the mechanisms behind these relationships.

“Maintaining a lower BMI through physical activity could help prevent disturbed insulin metabolism that is often seen in aging, thus promoting brain health,” she said.

It is worth noting that the study does not prove that exercise protects brain volume. It merely shows an association.

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