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Exercise gives older men a better brain boost

Men have stronger positive correlation between fitness and brain function

New research suggests that the relationship between physical and brain fitness varies in older adults by virtue of their sex. The study is published ahead of print in the Journal of Applied Physiology.

Cardiorespiratory fitness is the measure of how much — and how well — oxygen is delivered to the muscles during exercise. Fitness level has also been associated with changes in the brain’s nerve-rich tissue, called gray matter, and better cognitive function in later life. Previous studies have also found cardiorespiratory fitness to be related to how the brain functions during periods of rest. Nerve connectivity in the brain during rest changes with age. These changes can negatively affect cognitive function. However, “the neural basis of sex differences in the relationship between fitness and brain function in older adults has not been directly explored,” wrote researchers from York University and McGill University in Canada.

The research team studied one group of men and one of women, both with an average age of 67. The volunteers self-reported their typical daily physical activity level. The research team recorded the participants’ height, weight, age, sex and resting heart rate to determine their cardiorespiratory fitness. They also administered imaging tests of the brain to record nerve function both within specific brain networks (local efficiency) and among all networks (global efficiency).

The men were found to have higher cardiorespiratory fitness levels than the women. However, the women had higher local network efficiency and lower global network efficiency than the men. This pattern of connectivity was more robust in the women and has been positively associated with executive function, which are skills that contribute to being able to focus, pay attention and manage time. Fitness levels, however, were more strongly associated with improving this brain efficiency pattern for men than women.

“Our findings that [cardiorespiratory fitness] is associated with brain function in a sex-dependent manner underscore the importance of considering sex as a factor when studying associations between exercise and brain health in older adulthood,” the researchers wrote.

Story Source:y American Physiological Society.


Journal Reference:

  1. Christina J. Dimech, John A.E. Anderson, Amber W. Lockrow, R. Nathan Spreng, Gary R. Turner. Sex differences in the relationship between cardiorespiratory fitness and brain function in older adulthood. Journal of Applied Physiology, 2019; DOI: 10.1152/japplphysiol.01046.2018
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On Call with Dr. Lyons

As summer quickly comes to an end, our thoughts reluctantly begin to focus on Back to School. We start getting our homes “in order”, clothes and school supply shopping, cleaning out the summer sun, sand and fun of our thoughts so we can refocus our minds on the upcoming school year and all it brings. With that thought process, we tend to think about getting our health in order as well. Are the kids going to make it through the year “germ free”? Am I healthy enough to keep me and those around me going on the hectic schedule we call life?

In this issue we continue to give helping information about you and your family’s health. One very important part of keeping healthy is maintaining a healthy relationship with your family doctor. Cleveland Clinic gives us an informative perspective on this VIP we should all have access to (see page 16). Your Primary Care Physician (PCP) isn’t just for children, they should be your first resource in any stage of life and healthcare. Maintaining a long-term relationship with your PCP is a huge benefit in keeping you healthy.

As your thoughts turn to a seasonal change…we hope the information in this issue will continue to help you keep your healthcare goals.

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