It is estimated that after 40 years of age, on average, the human brain shrinks 5% per decade—and shrinkage may accelerate after 70. This is a serious problem, because a decrease in brain volume is associated with memory loss, diminished mental function, dementia, and even mortality. However, an ever-increasing number of research studies show that properly performed exercise actually increases the size of certain regions of the brain in older adults. In the least, exercise can slow the rate and amount of brain shrinkage.
In a 2006 study, Colcombe had 59 healthy, sedentary adults from 60 to 79 years of age participate in a six-month study. Half of the subjects performed moderate to moderately high intensity aerobic exercise for one hour, three times per week. Those in the control group performed the same volume of exercise but it consisted of low intensity stretching and “toning” exercise. After the training, those in the aerobic exercise group demonstrated an increase in gray and white brain matter in certain regions of the brain! Similar results have been shown in other aerobic exercise studies, as well as in one study where the participants performed strength exercise twice a week for one year. The greatest benefits from increased brain size appear to be to parts of the brain that work on more challenging mental tasks such as problem solving and being able to ‘pay attention’ for extended periods of time. Other aspects of brain function, like memory, can be positively affected as well.
Why the brain grows in response to exercise is likely due the fact that exercise stimulates the production of brain growth hormones and increases circulation of blood to the head.
Welcyon provides exercise instruction and customized programming consistent with exercise used in brain and exercise research studies. While exercise may not prevent cognitive decline in everyone, belonging to Welcyon can certainly help!