Exercise, hippocampus volume and memory
The positive benefits of aerobic exercise have been shown to extend beyond cardiovascular health, but also having a positive effect on cognitive function as well. In this study, the effect of aerobic exercise was found to be superior to that of non-aerobic exercise in functional mental capacities of those with early stages of Alzheimer’s Disease, concluding that the connection between cardiovascular fitness and overall brain function may be directly correlated.
A randomised control trial examined 76 participants with early dementia and Alzheimer’s signs. This study examined 26 weeks of aerobic exercise, versus a control group of non-aerobic regular exercise. The control group engaged in stretching and strengthening, and were monitored to keep their heart rate below 100 beats per minute, whereas the aerobic group worked up to 150 minutes a week of aerobic exercises monitored by achieving a target heart rate. Target heart rates began at 40-55% of HR reserve and were progressed to 60-75% of HR reserve based on initial testing for resting and peak HR values.
Testing for both groups at baseline and 26 week intervals for memory and cognitive functional ability were assessed by a battery of cognitive outcome measures. MRI scans for hippocampus volume were also conducted. At the end of the study, a positive correlation was found between memory functional and hippocampus volume in those who engaged in aerobic exercise versus the control group, however depressive symptoms and cognitive function remained the same. This article supports previous research that regular aerobic exercise helps preserve cognitive capacity and hippocampus volume, a vital component in short and long-term memory function.