Exercise is Good for Mental Health and Brain Volume
Two unrelated open-access studies, published recently online, emphasize how exercise may benefit people living with multiple sclerosis. One study demonstrated that physical activity is associated with increased brain volume and the other showed that increased physical activity is associated with improved mental health and higher quality of life for MS patients.
Physical activity and brain volume
In a recent study published in Behavioural Neurology, a team of researchers from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign identified an association between increased physical activity and higher volumes of brain tissue as measured by MRI scan in people with MS.
Physical activity was measured by an accelerometer worn for 7 consecutive days with data categorized by time spent in sedentary behavior, light physical activity, and moderate-to-vigorous physical activity. Data collected on days where the participant failed to wear the device for ≥ 10 hours without periods of inactivity exceeding 60 minutes (indicative of noncompliance) were excluded from the analysis.
Results from the study, involving 39 people with MS (30 female, 9 male; age 48.7 ± 9.6; disease duration 10.3 ± 8.5; EDSS 4.5 ± 2.5; and 77% with relapsing-remitting MS disease course), provide the first evidence that moderate-to-vigorous physical activity is associated, not only with volumes of whole brain gray and white matter but also, with deep gray matter structures that are involved in motor and cognitive functions in MS.1
In other words, moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA) seems to protect against brain atrophy in people with MS, including areas of the brain connected to motor and cognitive functions. No associations were found between sedentary behavior and light physical activity with MRI outcomes.
Authors conclude that this study “supports the possibility that enhancing physical activity, specifically MVPA, could contribute to brain health in people with MS [which is] important considering brain volume is correlated with disability status and cognitive impairment in MS.”