Physical Exercise May Outweigh Mental Exercise In Preventing Brain Shrinkage, Study Finds

Brain Health: Which Is Better, Mental Or Physical Exercise?

It seems there is another item to add to the already infinite “benefits of physical exercise” list.

Physical exercise, as opposed to mental exercise, helps prevent brain shrinkage, according to a study in the Oct. 23 issue of Neurology. Brain shrinkage has been linked to Alzheimer’s disease and can cause problems with thinking and memory.

“There is growing evidence of the beneficial effect of physical activity on brain structure,” said study author Dr. Alan Gow, Ph.D, with the University of Edinburgh in Scotland. "Though this needs to be confirmed in large scale trials, exercising more would certainly be a worthwhile endeavor.”

The Neurology study used MRI scans to analyze the brain structure of 638 subjects who did varying levels of physical and mental exercise. All participants were born in Scotland in 1936, and given an MRI at age 73.

The study found that participants who exercised regularly experienced less brain shrinkage than those who rarely exercised. “In terms of mental exercise, we can only say we found no benefit in our sample,” said Dr. Gow.

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