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Regular Exercise May Benefit the Brain as Well as the Body
Date:6/8/2011

WEDNESDAY, June 8 (HealthDay News) -- A commitment to high-intensity exercise may keep more than just your body in good shape. New research reveals that long-term aerobic activity may also boost a person's brain function.

In the study, Benjamin Tseng, a researcher in the Institute for Exercise and Environmental Medicine's (IEEM) Cerebrovascular Lab at the Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas, and colleagues compared brain structure and function in 10 athletes and 10 sedentary people.

The types of brain function they looked at included muscle control, executive function (a type of cognition that includes working memory, self-monitoring and the ability to suppress distractions) as well as other neurological functions.

"We know that brain structure and some aspects of cognitive function deteriorate with aging, but we haven't been able to find exactly what the contributing factors and mechanisms are," Tseng said in a hospital news release. "Our preliminary results shed light on this important topic, and we hope the findings lead to better prevention and treatment of Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia."

The study participants included 10 Masters athletes, average age 73 years, who had at least 15 years of competitive aerobic training, and 10 sedentary people of a similar age and education level. The investigators found that the brain's white matter fiber was better preserved among the athletes than the inactive people.

In the human brain, white matter plays the critical role of transmitting messages between different regions of gray matter -- areas where functions such as seeing, hearing, speaking, memory and emotions take place. So, without sufficient white matter, gray matter can't do its job, as is the case for many people with various forms of dementia, the study authors explained in the news release.

"Without properly functioning white matter, people can begin to show signs of neurolo
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