There are countless benefits associated with an active lifestyle. It’s no coincidence that those who practice a daily exercise regime often represent the epitome of health, both in youth and in old age. It's important to realize that the older we get, the more important it is to keep active. Scientists have just given us another reason to reach for our gym shoes with a new study that links aerobic exercise in older women to increased size in the hippocampus region of the brain, which means exercise can help your memory.

As we age, we become more at risk for mild cognitive impairment. This is huge risk factor for developing dementia. The hippocampus region of the brain is the area involved with verbal memory and learning. According to The Huffington Post, a team of researchers set out to determine if different types of exercise affected the cognitive abilities of aging women. The study was conducted by researchers in Vancouver, Canada, and was published online in the British Journal of Sports Medicine. The researchers studied the impact of different types of exercise on 86 different women with mild memory problems, all between the ages of 70 and 80 years old. The women were equally grouped, with some assigned to bi-weekly hour-long sessions of aerobic training (brisk walking), resistance training, such as lunges, squats, and weights, or balance and muscle toning exercises. This training lasted for six months and the researchers recorded the differences in size of the hippocampus region of the brain in the volunteers over a time period.

Results showed that the total volume of the hippocampus region of the brain, in the group who had completed the aerobic training, was significantly larger than that of those who had done other forms of exercise. There was no difference in volume seen in those who had done resistance training in comparison to those who had balance and muscle tone training.

This study ties in with a 2006 study that showed cardiovascular fitness to be associated with the sparing of brain tissue in aging individuals. Results from this study showed significant increases in volume in both gray and white matter in the brain of adults who had participated in aerobic fitness training. The study also found that there were no changes in volume for younger participants.

This data helps support the already acknowledged importance of exercise in older individuals. Although the researchers feel that there are further studies needed, there is no denying what these results are pointing to; aerobic exercises can help increase brain power in the older population. Even if you have been somewhat inactive for the majority of your life, starting to exercise at a later age still makes you three to four times more likely to age healthily compared to those who continue to be inactive, according to the English Longitudinal Study on Ageing.

It’s never too late to get active, and the benefits of health and increased brain abilities largely outweigh any sore muscles and shin splits that you may get along the way.

Source: Brinke L, Bolandzadah N, Nagamatsu L, et al. Aerobic exercise increases hippocampal volume in older women with probable mild cognitive impairment: a 6-month randomized controlled trial. British Journal of Sports Medicine. 2014