Exercise makes your brain bigger

It’s true! Riding a bike builds volume in key areas of the brain for memory and learning, contributing to a better life with age.

A new study looked at MRI brain scans of more than 10,000 people and found that those who participated in moderate-to-vigorous physical activity, such as bike riding, had more grey matter, which helps with processing information, and white matter, which connects different brain regions, plus higher hippocampus volume, which is important for memory.

The study was undertaken by the Providence health care network in Southern California and published in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease.

Editor-in-chief of the journal, George Perry says: "This study demonstrates the influence of exercise on brain health imaging and, when added to other studies on the role of diet, stress reduction and social connection, offers the proven benefits of drug-free modifiable factors in substantially reducing Alzheimer's disease." 

The authors say the research supports earlier studies that show being physically active is good for your brain. 

"Exercise not only lowers the risk of dementia but also helps in maintaining brain size, which is crucial as we age,” they say.

"We found that even moderate levels of physical activity, such as taking fewer than 4000 steps a day, can have a positive effect on brain health. This is much less than the often-suggested 10,000 steps, making it a more achievable goal for many people.

"Our research links regular physical activity to larger brain volumes, suggesting neuroprotective benefits. This large sample study furthers our understanding of lifestyle factors in brain health and dementia prevention.

"With comprehensive imaging scans, our study underscores the interconnected synergy between the body and the brain. It echoes the knowledge of past generations, showcasing that increased physical activity is a predictor of a healthier ageing brain."

Like our articles?

Become a Member and help fund our advocacy work.

Join Now

Or become our friend and subscribe to receive our fortnightly newsletter.