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Running Aerobic Exercise Health

Aerobic Exercise May Increase Blood Flow to Brain

During exercise, blood pressure and blood flow increase everywhere in the body, including the brain. Low levels of blood flow to the brain and stiffer blood vessels leading to the brain have been associated with increased risk of mild cognitive impairment. A new study suggests that exercise may help increase blood flow to the brain in mature adults with mild cognitive impairment.

Forty-eight adults diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment and memory loss participated in the study. Half of the participants took part in a moderate aerobic exercise program 3 to 5 times per week for 1 year. The other half took part in a stretching program 3 to 5 times per week for 1 year. Central arterial stiffness and blood flow to the brain were measured using ultrasonography at the beginning and end of the study. Episodic memory and executive function were evaluated using neuropsychological tests at the beginning and end of the study.

Participants who performed the aerobic exercise showed decrease stiffness of blood vessels in the neck and increased blood flow to the brain. Greater increases in oxygen consumption were associated with greater changes to blood vessel stiffness and blood flow to the brain. No changes were seen in the participants who performed stretching exercises. 

While no changes were seen in memory or executive function, the researchers believe this may be due to the small number of participants or short length of the study.

The study was conducted by researchers from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center and Rutgers University.It was published online ahead of print on February 11, 2021 in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease.

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