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Exercise can improve brain health

20 February, 2013

ISLAMABAD: Exercise doesn't only strengthen your heart and muscles - it also helps increase brain power, say researchers.

Dozens of studies now show that aerobic exercise can increase the size of critical brain structures and improve cognition in children and older adults, according to University of Illinois psychology professor Art Kramer, a nationally recognized expert on the role of physical fitness on cognition.

"Populations throughout the industrialized world are becoming increasing sedentary as a result of the changing nature of work and leisure activities. As a result of these societal changes, increases in diseases such as hypertension, diabetes, osteoporosis and some cancers are increasing. Physical activity serves to reduce susceptibility to these diseases," Kramer said.

"Increased physical activity also has direct, and relatively rapid effects on cognition and brain health," he added.

He noted that such results have been reported, over the course of several decades, in animal studies of physical activity.

Studies in humans, many conducted in Kramer's lab, also showed that regular exercise, such as walking three times per week, also increases brain power.

Kramer will present research from his own lab and others that demonstrates that older adults who participate in fitness training and physical activity benefit from significant improvements in their brain structure and function.

Kramer will discuss these brain-changing outcomes at a session of the 2013 meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Boston on Feb. 16.

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