Is your brain growing or shrinking?

I was impressed with this article from Michelle Ward, MS* and, since it had not been published elsewhere, she kindly agreed to let me use it as my blog this week.

New studies show that regular, moderate exercise has a beneficial effect on the brain as we age. With more than half of adults over 85 experiencing cognitive or memory issues, a little exercise may go a long way.1

Neuroscientist Art Kramer at the University of Illinois scanned the brains of 120 older adults over the course of a year. 2 At the beginning of the study, half of the participants started a program of moderate aerobic exercise: mostly walking for just 45 minutes, three days a week. The other half did not engage in exercise. After a year, MRI scans showed an increase in the volume of parts of the brains for the group that did exercise.

Interestingly, the placebo group that did not engage in exercise lost 1.5 percent of their brain volume. The group that had greater brain volume from exercise was also found to have better memory compared to the placebo.

Animal studies have shown that exercise increases new neuron production, strengthens the connections between neurons and increases blood volume to numerous areas of the brain.3

According to Kramer, brain exercises like Sudoku or crossword puzzles are not as conclusive compared to the research on aerobic exercise but are still a good idea.

Nutritional Support for the Brain

There is evidence suggesting that omega-3 fatty acids—found in certain fish—and antioxidants like vitamins C and E—found in vegetables—may help nourish the brain.4

A recent study also revealed that vitamin B12 may protect against the actual “shrinkage” of the brain as we age.5 The study measured 107 people from ages 61-87 for five years with brain scans and MRI’s.

The study found that people who had higher vitamin B12 levels were less likely to experience brain shrinkage compared with those who had lower levels of the vitamin in their blood (5). None of the people in the study had a vitamin B12 deficiency. You do not have to be deficient in B12 to see brain shrinkage. Low B12 levels can put you at risk as well.


1. What is Dementia?

2. Exercise training increases size of hippocampus and improves memory

3. Exercise builds brain healthkey roles of growth factor cascades and inflammation

4. Nutrient biomarker patterns, cognitive function, and MRI measures of brain aging

5. Vitamin B12 status and rate of brain volume loss in community-dwelling elderly

*Michelle Ward is a Certified Holistic Health Coach specializing in helping people make simple, yet profound lifestyle changes that dramatically impact health in a positive way.  Michelle embraces the idea of bio-individuality and evaluates each client’s nutrition, movement, stress, sleep, hydration and mindset in order to create a program that is unique and sustainable for the individual she coachesTo schedule a complimentary consultation, visit or email her at






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