Regular physical exercise not only enhances fitness but also has a positive impact on brain metabolism, researchers say. The findings showed that physical activity prevented an increase in choline — a macronutrient that’s important for liver function, normal brain development, nerve function, muscle movement, supporting energy levels and maintaining a healthy metabolism.
Previous research had also shown that regular physical exercise heightens the brain size of senior citizens and lowers the risk of cognitive decline. Another study showed that exercising, even for half an hour a week, can improve the health of people suffering from Parkinson’s disease.
The concentration of this metabolite often rises as a result of the increased loss of nerve cells, which typically occurs in the case of Alzheimer’s disease, said Johannes Pantel, Professor at the Goethe University Frankfurt in Germany. In the study, physical exercise led to stable cerebral choline concentrations in the training group, whereas choline levels increased in the control group.
The participants’ physical fitness also improved. They showed increased cardiac efficiency after the training period. Overall, these findings suggest that physical exercise not only improves physical fitness but also protects cells. To understand the positive influence of physical activity on the brain, gerontologists and sports physicians examined the effects of regular exercise on brain metabolism and memory of participants aged between 65 and 85 on movement-related parameters, cardiopulmonary fitness and cognitive performance.
The participants were asked to mount an exercise bike three times a week over a period of 12 weeks for 30-minute training sessions. Magnetic resonance tomography (MRT) and magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS) were used to measure brain metabolism and brain structure. The results showed that regular physical exercise seems beneficial in the prevention of cognitive impairment and dementia in old age.