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How does Aerobic Exercise Impact your Brain?

How does Aerobic Exercise Impact your Brain?

This week I wanted to talk about 3 articles that have come into the lime light in the last 8 months (give or take), all of them touch on aerobic exercise and the brain. One thing you need to know is there are many forms of exercise and each form has its benefits from bulking up your body, improving slow twitch fast twitch reactions,  to bulking up your brain. 

Photo by BrianAJackson/iStock / Getty Images

Photo by BrianAJackson/iStock / Getty Images

Now aerobic exercise is a new term being used in place of “cardio.” Aerobic exercise depends on the aerobic energy-generating process and consists of low to high intensity. Examples can be, jogging, rowing, swimming, cycling, anything that really get you breathing hard and that heart pounding. Now we know exercise is good for us but we hear that so much, it falls on deaf ears more often than not, so I wanna break down the recent research on what this specific type of exercise will do for YOUR BODY!


Paper number 1 called: 

Enhanced Protein Translation Underlies Improved Metabolic and Physical Adaptations to Different Exercise Training Modes in Young and Old Humans

Unfortunately I did not have full access to the article itself so I cant give the the nitty gritty details of the study, but I can give you the cliff notes and findings. 

Many scientists are struggling to map and understand physical transducers stimulated by human activity. What does this mean? They want to figure out how physical activity creates a healthier being by identifying and documenting key molecules created by physical activity and their influence on the body.

In this particular study they looked at High intensity interval training (HIIT), resistance training (RT), and combined exercise training aver a 12 week period. I do not have specifics of number, age, and gender of participants so there are unknowns unless you buy the article. SADNESS!

What did they find?

All 3 forms of exercise improved aerobic capacity and mitochondrial respiration in skeletal muscle. 

HIIT showed to have a stronger degree of change on the transcription of genes compared with the other two forms observed in this study. The change was seen most strongly in older adults, yet, the corresponding proteins these transcribed genes would create, were not seen. 

HIIT was seen to decrease age-related proteome differences. More specifically, mitochondrial protein synthesis. Why is this important? Because your mitochondria are, “The Power House of the Cell.” I am sure if you took a biology class and you remember one organelle, its the mitochondria and you have heard this phrase before as they make sure to inculcate it into the mind.  

Mitochondria= POWER HOUSE Its like your own personal nuclear power plants.

They also found that, despite age, RT and HIIT exercise increased the proteins involved in translation machinery. What is translational machinery? mRNAs, tRNAs, aminoacyl-tRNA synthase and, ribosomes. 

Therefore, the increase of ribosomes and protein synthesis can elucidate the gain in mitochondria.


Photo by pinkomelet/iStock / Getty Images

Photo by pinkomelet/iStock / Getty Images

Article Numero dos:

A whole brain volumetric approach in overweight/obese children: Examining the association with different physical fitness components and academic performance. The ActiveBrains project.

The whole article was not available to me which is perplexing because I should have full access. The link will be provided and you can purchase it from them if you so desire. 

Back to the science:

This study is unique because it is looking at the gray matter of the brains of obese children and looking for structural differences of these brains compared to that of children that are not obese.


The goal of the study was to determine if fitness related changes in the brain correlate with academic performance in obese children. The study evaluated the association between: cardiorespiratory fitness, speed agility, and muscular fitness with that of the structural volume of the brain. 

Participant details:

Number of participants: 101

Age: 8-11

Location: Granada Spain

Grey Matter: calculated using Diffeomorphic Anatomical Registration Through Exponentiated Lie algebra (DARTEL).

Academic performance: Assessed by the Batería III Woodcock-Muñoz Tests of Achievement

Physical fitness: Assessed following the ALPHA health-related fitness test battery

Controlled characteristics:  “All analyses were controlled for sex, peak high velocity offset, parent education, body mass index and total brain volume.”


Higher cardiorespiratory fitness imparted more gray matter volumes.

Three areas of the brain that saw an increase in gray matter volume (i.e. premotor cortex, hippocampus, and supplementary motor cortex). These 3 areas relate to superior academic performance. 

Higher speed agility correlated with more gray matter volume in 2 specific clusters: inferior frontal gyrus and the superior temporal gyrus. Both clusters have been correlated with greater academic performance. 

Muscular fitness was not connected with subcortical or cortical brain volumes. 

The researchers concluded that cardiorespiratory fitness and speed-agility can influence the development of specific brain regions known to enhance academic performance. This in-turn, can reverse the harmful effects that obesity has on the structure of a child's brain. 


Photo by andronov/iStock / Getty Images

Photo by andronov/iStock / Getty Images

Article THREE:

Effect of aerobic exercise on hippocampal volume in humans: A systematic review and meta-analysis

This article was a comprehensive look on whether aerobic exercise has any effect on the volume of the hippocampus in humans. Of the 4,398 articles they found they allowed 14 for analysis. Of the 14, 3 met the Cochrane standard for Low Risk bias on all criteria. 


Aerobic exercise had no significant effect on the right hippocampal volumes. However, there was a significant positive effect on the left hippocampal volume compared to control conditions. 

They concluded that aerobic exercise was not increasing the brain volume in that area, rather it was halting the age-related neurodegeneration. In other words it stopped the brain shrinkage that is seen with aging individuals. So exercising wasn’t about improving things so much as it was for maintaining what you already got!


Please comment below! Tell me whatcha think. Did I get something wrong or mis- quote?  DM me.

Photo by twinsterphoto/iStock / Getty Images

Photo by twinsterphoto/iStock / Getty Images

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