Exercise Increases White Matter in the Brain

August 24th, 2014 by Dr. Keith Nemec

A new study of 9- and 10-year-olds finds that those who are more aerobically fit have more fibrous and compact white-matter tracts in the brain than their peers who are less fit. “White matter” describes the bundles of axons that carry nerve signals from one brain region to another. More compact white matter is associated with faster and more efficient nerve activity.

Previous studies suggest that children with higher levels of aerobic fitness show greater brain volumes in gray-matter brain regions important for memory and learning. Now for the first time the researchers explored how aerobic fitness relates to white matter in children’s brains.

The team used diffusion tensor imaging (DTI, also called diffusion MRI) to look at five white-matter tracts in the brains of the 24 participants.

The researchers controlled for several variables — such as social and economic status, the timing of puberty, IQ, or a diagnosis of ADHD or other learning disabilities — that might have contributed to the reported fitness differences in the brain.

The analysis revealed significant fitness-related differences in the integrity of several white-matter tracts in the brain: the corpus callosum, which connects the brain’s left and right hemispheres; the superior longitudinal fasciculus, a pair of structures that connect the frontal and parietal lobes; and the superior corona radiata, which connect the cerebral cortex to the brain stem. All of these tracts have been found to play a role in attention and memory.

The team did not test for cognitive differences in the children in this study, but previous work has demonstrated a link between improved aerobic fitness and gains in cognitive function on specific tasks and in academic settings.

Previous studies have reported a relationship between fitness and white-matter integrity in older adults. Therefore, it appears that fitness may have beneficial effects on white matter throughout the lifespan.

-Frontiers in Human Neuroscience.

Dr. Keith & Laurie Nemec’s comments on “Exercise Increases White Matter in the Brain”:

If you don’t use it you lose it as the saying goes. There are two ways you use it when it comes to your brain. The first is obvious. Studies have shown the more you intellectually stimulate and challenge your mind/brain the sharper it stays into older age. This is why it is recommended to do things like crossword puzzles and other memory related tasks. The other BIG use it so you don’t lose it, is physical exercise. As this study showed the children that exercised the most had the largest amount of white matter in their brain. This is the part of the brain that is associated with cognitive function, thinking and memory.

There are 7 Basic Steps to Total Health that you should do every day of your life and a very important one is exercise. What exercise does that is so important is it moves blood. Blood is the source of oxygen and food for the cells. When you exercise you bring 10-100 times more oxygen and food to the cells and 10-100 times more waste products are removed from the cells. This is what keeps you healthy. This is why exercise is so vital. In the country’s that have the longest lived populations a common factor is that they live in mountain regions where they have to go up and down the mountain every day of their life. This increases oxygen, food and decreases waste products around the cells.

So what can you do today? Start moving. Start walking instead of driving, start riding a bike instead of driving. Start walking up the stairs instead of taking the elevator. Just start moving more and sitting less.

One of the best cardiovascular exercises is to go up and down the stairs. You can do this at home if you have stairs, do it at work, do it wherever you go that has stairs. Just remember those people who walk up and down the mountain all day to get you inspired.

Age is more a state of mind than a state of being. If you plan on exercising the same way at 80 that you do at 40 why do you think you will become old? In these long lived societies most everyone lives to 100 doing manual labor and walking up and down the mountain. So do not believe the lie that you will end up like a standard American who is dead at 78 or on multiple medications with some percentage of physical or mental disability. Think like the mountain people think. 80 is a youngster and 100 are the wise people that everyone looks up to for their years of experience and knowledge. What would this country be like if we lived to be 100 and were healthy instead of ending up diabled in a nursing home at 80. Healthy at 80, 90 or a 100 is doable you just have to start living the 7 Basic Steps to Total Health right now instead of waiting for symptoms, conditions or diseases to begin.

Do not put off to tomorrow what you can and SHOULD do today.

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