It’s no secret that staying active as we age is crucial for maintaining our health, and especially brain health. Aerobic exercise, in particular, has shown promise to that end, but until now, the exact mechanisms behind its effect on brain function haven’t been clear. However, in a new study by Florida Atlantic University published in the journal Frontiers in Endocrinology, researchers were able to get some insight.
Looking at the effects of aerobic exercise.
Given the established benefits of aerobic exercise, researchers wanted to pinpoint specific biomarkers related to learning and memory and see whether the biomarkers increased in older adults after aerobic exercise. (Those biomarkers were myokine Cathepsin B (CTSB), brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), and klotho.)
Participants with a genetic risk for Alzheimer’s followed exercise routines for 26 weeks, with half of them performing treadmill training (aka aerobic exercise). Blood samples were taken from the participants at the beginning of the 26 weeks and at the end.
After the 26 weeks, CTSB levels had increased after the aerobic exercise training, which was also associated with improvements in verbal learning and memory. On top of that, metabolites related to Alzheimer’s demonstrated changes after aerobic exercise.
As study author Henriette van Praag, Ph.D., explains in a news release, “Our findings position CTSB, BDNF, and klotho as exercise biomarkers for evaluating the effect of lifestyle interventions on brain function.”
She also adds their findings support the positives effects of aerobic exercise on brain function and brain health in people at risk for Alzheimer’s.
As we age, aerobic exercise can not only increase gray and white matter in the brain but also increase blood flow and improve memory—all vital when it comes to maintaining cognitive function.
For medical professionals, these findings may offer a new approach to prevention, monitoring, and treatment of Alzheimer’s.
The bottom line is, it’s important to stay active as we age. And if you’re particularly concerned about brain health, aerobic exercises like brisk walking, running, biking, and swimming are a good place to start.