Cardio Improves Cognitive Functioning

by Matt Weik

I think it’s pretty safe to say that not many of us get excited when it comes to doing cardio. However, if you suffer from any type of cognitive illness or disease, you’re going to really love what the new research below is showing.

What did the research show?

Researchers have used a new technique with an MRI and have found that adults from the study who did cardio four days a week for six months and were shown to have a mild cognitive impairment prior to the study showed an increase in brain volume. This ultimately gave them an enhancement of cognitive functioning as well as improved memory. They believe their findings are significant as 5 million Americans are currently suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease.

This particular study used 35 adults and split them into two separate groups. One group of 16 adults were doing cardio for the full duration of the study (4 times a week for six months). These individuals used things such as a treadmill, elliptical, and stationary bike to complete their weekly cardio sessions. The second half of the group (19 adults) only stretched 4 days a week for the six-month period.

While the group that engaged in cardiovascular activity showed the most change, both groups showed an improvement in gray matter regions of the brain that helps with short-term memory. The remarkable thing in my opinion with this study is that in as little as 6 months, there was a noticeable difference and improvement.

The researchers mentioned that it’s extremely important to track changes in the brain through the use of MRI with those suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease and mild cognitive impairment. Even small changes in the brain can now be noticed through the use of MRI and this new technique. One researcher mentioned, “Directional changes in the brain without local volume changes could be a novel biomarker for neurological disease. It may be a more sensitive marker for the tiny changes that occur in a specific brain region before volumetric changes are detectable on MRI.”

They believe through careful tracking of the brain and any changes that take place over time is important to gauge if an exercise and nutrition program are working or not for a patient. Most research, however, is showing that both exercise and diet when combined does seem to slow down the progression of cognitive diseases.

Here’s the only drawback found in the study. When the researchers looked at cognitive performance between the two respective groups in the study, they found the group that engaged in cardiovascular activity showed a much-improved performance level whereas the group who only did stretching exercises showed no change at all. Therefore, the study shows it’s extremely important to engage in cardiovascular exercise if you want overall better cognitive functioning and are suffering from any cognitive issues.

It’s important to note that the cardiovascular exercises used in this research are not believed to be the only forms of exercise that can benefit those with cognitive diseases. One researcher mentioned, “Any type of exercise can be beneficial.” This opens the door to better diagnosis, prevention, and treatment to those with cognitive illnesses and diseases.

Materials provided by Radiological Society of North America