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Exercise Builds Brain Power Naturally

For a while, researchers have understood and appreciated the effect exercise has your brain, namely fighting Alzheimer's and other kinds of dementia and making it work at its optimum capacity. A new study, built on previous research, explains how exercise affects your brain in so many beneficial ways.

Simply, exercise promotes the growth of brain cells in a region of the hippocampus called the denate gyrus, the area most affected by age-related declines in memory. And, scientists proved it by using MRIs to measure that same process in mice, then humans.

After measuring the brains and fitness of 11 human patients before and following three months of an aerobic exercise program, researchers observed remarkable similarities between mice and humans in the way the hippocampus benefits from changes in exercise-induced cerebral blood volumes.

The next step in the process: Learning what kind of exercise most benefits the mind, scientists say, so doctors can prescribe a specific regimen to improve memory. Sounds much like treating exercise as if it were a drug that must be prescribed precisely to do the most good.

I really attribute much of my success in life to the fact that I have never stopped exercising since I was in grade school nearly 40 years ago. Interestingly, some of the most successful business people I know are also athletes.

An interesting note on this exercise benefit, and it is no surprise, is that you can’t put it in the bank. Just because you were a jock in school, past exercise will not provide you with major benefits as you age. In fact, it might even be a detriment, as your body was used to being fit so it expects it.

So you have to continue to exercise the rest of your life to maintain the benefits.

CNN.com March 12, 2007

Columbia University Medical Center March 12, 2007