Original Research ARTICLE

Front. Aging Neurosci., 12 November 2013 | doi: 10.3389/fnagi.2013.00075

Shorter term aerobic exercise improves brain, cognition, and cardiovascular fitness in aging

Sandra B. Chapman1*, Sina Aslan2, Jeffrey S. Spence1, Laura F. DeFina3, Molly W. Keebler1, Nyaz Didehbani1 and Hanzhang Lu4
  • 1Center for BrainHealth®, The University of Texas at Dallas, Dallas, TX, USA
  • 2Advance MRI, LLC, Frisco, TX, USA
  • 3The Cooper Institute, Dallas, TX, USA
  • 4Advanced Imaging Research Center, The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas, TX, USA

Physical exercise, particularly aerobic exercise, is documented as providing a low cost regimen to counter well-documented cognitive declines including memory, executive function, visuospatial skills, and processing speed in normally aging adults. Prior aging studies focused largely on the effects of medium to long term (>6 months) exercise training; however, the shorter term effects have not been studied. In the present study, we examined changes in brain blood flow, cognition, and fitness in 37 cognitively healthy sedentary adults (57–75 years of age) who were randomized into physical training or a wait-list control group. The physical training group received supervised aerobic exercise for 3 sessions per week 1 h each for 12 weeks. Participants' cognitive, cardiovascular fitness and resting cerebral blood flow (CBF) were assessed at baseline (T1), mid (T2), and post-training (T3). We found higher resting CBF in the anterior cingulate region in the physical training group as compared to the control group from T1 to T3. Cognitive gains were manifested in the exercise group's improved immediate and delayed memory performance from T1 to T3 which also showed a significant positive association with increases in both left and right hippocampal CBF identified earlier in the time course at T2. Additionally, the two cardiovascular parameters, VO2 max and rating of perceived exertion (RPE) showed gains, compared to the control group. These data suggest that even shorter term aerobic exercise can facilitate neuroplasticity to reduce both the biological and cognitive consequences of aging to benefit brain health in sedentary adults.

Keywords: aging, CBF, exercise, memory, MRI

Citation: Chapman SB, Aslan S, Spence JS, DeFina LF, Keebler MW, Didehbani N and Lu H (2013) Shorter term aerobic exercise improves brain, cognition, and cardiovascular fitness in aging. Front. Aging Neurosci. 5:75. doi: 10.3389/fnagi.2013.00075

Received: 23 August 2013; Accepted: 26 October 2013;
Published online: 12 November 2013.

Edited by:

Philip P. Foster, The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, USA

Reviewed by:

Douglas Watt, Quincy Medical Center, USA
Jim M. Monti, Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology, USA

Copyright © 2013 Chapman, Aslan, Spence, DeFina, Keebler, Didehbani and Lu. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) or licensor are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

*Correspondence: Sandra B. Chapman, Center for BrainHealth®, The University of Texas at Dallas, 2200 West Mockingbird Lane, Dallas, TX 75235, USA e-mail: schapman@utdallas.edu

These authors have contributed equally to this work.

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