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Exercise Promotes Brain Health

by Shirley Archer, JD, MA on Mar 25, 2009

Mind-Body-Spirit News

Exercising as little as 3 hours per week may keep the brain healthy, according to a small study presented at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA), held last December in Chicago. Older adults who exercised regularly had more cerebral blood flow and a greater number of small blood vessels in the brain compared with their inactive counterparts. Improved circulation may be one of the secrets to preventing cognitive decline.

Researchers from the University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill recruited 12 healthy adults aged 60–76. Half of the subjects had exercised aerobically for 3 or more hours per week for the previous 10 years. The other half had led inactive lives, exercising less than 1 hour per week. Each volunteer received MRI and MR angiography to examine the brain.

“The active adults had more small blood vessels and improved cerebral blood flow,” said the study’s senior author, J. Keith Smith, MD, PhD, associate professor of radiology at UNC School of Medicine. The inactive group had fewer small blood cells and an unpredictable blood flow. Prior studies have shown that older adults who exercise experience less cognitive decline. Researchers on the current study suggested that improvements in blood flow might be one of the reasons for this.

For more information, go to the RSNA website at

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About the Author

Shirley Archer, JD, MA

Shirley Archer, JD, MA IDEA Author/Presenter

Shirley Archer, JD, MA, was the 2008 IDEA Fitness Instructor of the Year and is IDEA's mind-body-spirit spokesperson. She is a certified yoga and Pilates teacher and an award-winning author based in Los Angeles, California, and Zurich, Switzerland. Two of her books, The Walking Deck and The Strength and Toning Deck, are now featured as iPhone apps. Contact her at