Aerobic exercise restores the aging brain

Regular aerobic exercise provides blood flow to the brain, which helps older people keep their brains healthy

Maria Zavialova

Thinking what activity to choose? Choose aerobic exercises – for your brain health. At least half an hour of power walking or jogging four to five times a week contributed to better blood flow in the brain among a group of older people. These are results of a new study by the American Institute of Exercise and Environmental Medicine.

What exercise was chosen for the study

The intensity was like if you’re rushing to a meeting where you are 10 minutes late. You’re brisk walking, and you feel a shortness of breath. The brain requires about 20% of the body’s total blood flow to maintain its function as an organ.

Head of the cerebrovascular laboratory at the Institute for Exercise and Environmental Medicine Rong Zhang

According to him, with age, blood circulates slower to and out the brain, a condition called cerebrovascular impedence. Less blood circulation means the brain gets less oxygen and nutrients.

It also means that toxins can accumulate in the brain. After all, reduced blood circulation is less able to remove waste produced by the intense metabolism in the brain.


To test whether regular exercise can help people maintain healthy blood flow in the brain, Zhang and his colleagues recruited 72 people aged 60 to 80 to take part in a year-long experiment.

Half were randomly assigned to an aerobic exercise group, while the rest were placed in a control group that performed stretching and toning activities.

The aerobics group started with three half-hour sessions per week and gradually increased to four to five sessions that could last up to 40 minutes.

After a year, the researchers performed brain scans and arterial tests to check blood circulation in the participants’ brains.

How the exercises affected the study participants

The aerobics group showed significant improvement in brain circulation, while the stretching and toning group did not.

I have not seen this tack taken before. It’s interesting that they’re looking at exercise as a way to improve vascular health inside the brain. This adds more fuel to that hypothesis that exercise improves brain health.

Dr. Donn Dexter, a with the Mayo Clinic in Eau Claire, Wisc., and a fellow of the American Academy of Neurology

Dexter and Zhang recommend adults to devote at least 150 minutes a week to moderate-intensity exercise. This is about 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week. At the same time, there is no need to increase the intensity and overexert yourself, when talking about the brain health.

I haven’t seen any evidence suggesting that if you go to the extreme, like people training for a marathon, you will receive more benefits compared with the program we have recommended. Exercise should be a habit for your whole life. It’s never too late. The research out there suggests what is good for your heart is good for your brain.

Head of the cerebrovascular laboratory at the Institute for Exercise and Environmental Medicine Rong Zhang

We would like to remind you: at the School of Women’s Health, we always emphasize that regular exercise and physical activity are the prevention of many disorders in a woman’s body, including psychological ones. 

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