Exercising early in life good for the brain : study

Saturday January 2 2016

Exercising early in life can promote healthier brain and metabolic activity over the course of a lifetime, the University of Colorado Boulder in the US said in a press release on Tuesday, citing a new study by the institution. PHOTO| FILE| NATION MEDIA GROUP 

By CARLOS MUREITHI
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Exercising early in life can promote healthier brain and metabolic activity over the course of a lifetime, the University of Colorado Boulder in the US said in a press release on Tuesday, citing a new study by the institution.

The research, Early life exercise may promote lasting brain and metabolic health through gut bacterial metabolites, indicates that there may be a window of opportunity during early human development to optimise the chances of better lifelong health.

“Exercise affects many aspects of health, both metabolic and mental, and people are only now starting to look at the plasticity of these gut microbes,” Monika Fleshner, the senior author of the study, said. “That is one of the novel aspects of this research.”

Microbes take up residence within human intestines shortly after birth and are vital to the development of the immune system and various neural functions. They can add as many as five million genes to a person’s overall genetic profile and thus have tremendous power to influence aspects of human physiology.

While this diverse microbial community remains somewhat malleable throughout adult life and can be influenced by environmental factors such as diet and sleep patterns, researchers found that gut microorganisms are especially “plastic” at a young age.

The study found that juvenile rats who voluntarily exercised every day developed a more beneficial microbial structure, including the expansion of probiotic bacterial species in their gut compared to both their sedentary counterparts and adult rats, even when the adult rats exercised as well.

A robust, healthy community of gut microbes also appears to promote healthy brain function and provide anti-depressant effects, Ms Fleshner said. The paper is in the journal Immunology and Cell Biology.