"A growing number of studies are demonstrating that some form of regular exercise -- or even the mental practice of exercise -- can have beneficial effects on a wide variety of daily functions," says V. Reggie Edgerton, PhD, of the University of California at Los Angeles. "For example, mental practice can improve one's strength, and regular exercise, both before and after a spinal cord injury, will reduce the severity of the injury." Research is also showing that regular exercise seems to have a generalized beneficial effect in how the brain functions, as shown by its ability to reduce symptoms of depression in both animals and humans.
"Just how exercise is modulated in these important functions is not clear," says Edgerton, "but new experiments showing enhanced vascularity in areas of the brain associated with motor control in nonhuman primates provides an example of a change in the tissues of the brain." These results may have important implications for helping people recover from vascular injuries and trauma.
In general, all of this latest research on exercise and the brain seems to suggest that some minimum level of physical activity is important for keeping the brain functioning at normal levels. "Exercise affects more than the muscle," says Edgerton.
At the Cleveland Clinic Foundation, researchers have found that older people must put some mental effort into exercising if they want their muscles to become stronger. "We found that low-intensity physical exercise does not alone produce sizable strength gains in healthy elderly individuals," says Guang Yue, PhD. "To achieve significant muscle strength, you also need to put a hi
Contact: Dawn McCoy
Society for Neuroscience