July 21 (UPI) -- Researchers at Goethe University in Frankfurt, Germany, have discovered exactly how physical exercise may prevent dementia in old age.
The study, published in the August edition of Nature, examined the effects of regular exercise on brain metabolism and memory in 60 participants age 65 to 85.
The participants were analyzed through the Sport and Metabolism in Older Persons, or SMART, study by assessing movement-related parameters, cardiopulmonary fitness and cognitive performance.
Researchers used magnetic resonance tomography, or MRT, and magnetic resonance spectroscopy, or MRS, to measure brain metabolism and structure.
About half of the study participants were then assigned to either take part in 30-minute training on exercise bikes as part of a 12-week program, and were examined again after its completion.
The study revealed that physical activity did influence brain metabolism by preventing an increase in choline, a metabolite that rises as a result of an increased loss of nerve cells.
Researchers found physical exercise caused a stable cerebral choline concentration in the group that participated in bike training. Choline levels rose in the control group.
Researchers conclude that physical exercise not only improves physical fitness but may also protect cells.