We already know that a sedentary lifestyle, often caused by long hours at a desk at work or spending too much time on the couch after switching off, presents a number of undesirable physical health challenges. However, there is new research suggesting that activity not only improves our physical fitness, but also benefits our brains and makes our cognitive abilities long-lasting.
A recent study published by Neurobiology of Learning and Memory examined the effects of aerobic exercise on the medial temporal lobe (MTL). The MTL is one of the regions of the brain that is the first to show signs of Alzheimer's disease and, due to its neuroplasticity, is sensitive to the effects of exercise. During a trial with elderly African Americans in Newark, New Jersey, researchers found that the brain's memory center networks reconfigured themselves after aerobics sessions in a way that benefited memory.
Functional magnetic resonance imaging technology observed that exercise improved the "flexibility" of the brain's networks, leading scientists to believe that physical activity induces greater cognitive ability. The subjects were tested and showed improvements in critical thinking and memory, showing that the aerobic sessions affected the complex neural network of the brain and had a protective and rehabilitative effect on MTL function.
This recent confirmation that aerobic exercise is mentally beneficial builds on previous studies showing how running contributes to sharper minds and gives us yet another reason to combat a sedentary lifestyle with regular physical activity, especially when we are age. It's good to know that staying active is beneficial to our hearts and minds.