Research into the link between exercise and better mental health

Research into the link between exercise and better mental health

By William Smith

An article published in the online edition of the Journal of Applied Physiology has found that aerobic exercise and stength trailing  play a vital role in mintaining brain and cognitive health throughout life.

Michelle W. Voss of the Univesity of Illinois and her colleagues carried out the review which highlights the results of more than a hundred recent human and animal studies.

The psysiology associated with exercise-induced improvements to the heart and muscles is understood, however, the method by which exercise improves brain health is less well understood.

The study suggests that aerobic exercise during childhood helps to get a head start on cognitive capabilites that are vital throughout life.  Exercise during childhood improved attention, memory and decision-making.

Yound and elderly adults are similarly effected.  There is evidence which supports aerobic training as being able to improve multi-tasking, inhibition and planning.  It also increased the volume of brain structures which are important for memory.   High-intensity and high-load training can improve the memory in older adults.

Primary models that test the influence of aerobic exercise suggest a variety of reasons responsible for tese effects.  Exercise a ppears to change the brain structure.  It promotes the growth of new nerve cells and blood vessels.  The prodction of neurochemicals is increased – neurochemicals promote growth, differentiation, survival and repair of brain cells.

This review of studies supports the beneficial effects of exercise on the brain but also highlights gaps in the scientific literature.  The review authors note that more research is needed on how different types of exercise might promote different effects on brain health.

There is clear evidence supporting exercise for brain and body health although more study is needed to learn how the way in which we exercise helps the body and especially the brain to improve itself. 

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