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Julian Omidi on Exercise and Brain Shrinkage

Julian Omidi is cofounder of the charitable organization No More Poverty with his brother Dr. Michael OmidiNo More Poverty seeks to end global deprivation by supporting small charities who are already working to eradicate it.  In this article, Julian Omidi discusses a recent study that suggests physical exercise may help prevent brain atrophy as we grow older.

As we age, it is important to keep our physical and mental faculties strong.  This is thought to be achieved by engaging in social activities, reading, solving puzzles and getting regular exercise.  However, a new study seems to suggest that physical exercise may play a greater role in reducing brain shrinkage than we previously thought.

In an observational study conducted in Edinburgh, researchers followed a group of 70-year-olds who engaged in varying levels of physical and leisure activities.  It was determined that, after three years, the amount of brain atrophy was significantly lower in the subjects that exercised regularly than the subjects who were largely sedentary, but did engage in leisure activities such as crossword puzzles and regular reading.[1]

The subjects’ brains were analyzed on MRI scanners, and tracked the amount of grey matter load, normally occurring white matter load, atrophy and white lesion load.  The participants who exercised regularly displayed a low level of white lesion load and atrophy—conditions that are connected to Alzheimer’s disease and memory loss.

Although further testing must be done (it isn’t known what actually causes the erosion, and if exercise can correct it once it begins) and the sample of participants was small, it can be concluded that exercise is certainly a worthwhile endeavor no matter what your age.  But should we dismiss the merits of brain exercise?

There have been cognitive studies that seem to suggest that memory games, puzzles and social engagements do prevent the accumulation of brain plaque, which is present in those with Alzheimer’s disease.  Subjects that have engaged in mental exercises consistently from their early adulthood into later life exhibited low amounts of brain plaque and higher mental sharpness than those who did not[2].  Interestingly, physical exercise did not seem to affect the onset of brain plaque.

As we live to increasingly older ages, the management of cognitive abilities is paramount in keeping older adults functioning and independent members of society.  The studies may not be by any means conclusive, but it still can be surmised that keeping active and engaged as long as possible can only benefit society at large.

[1] Gow, Alan J, PhD: “Neuroprotective lifestyles and the aging brain: Activity, atrophy, and white matter integrity” Neurology 6/12/2012

[2] Landau, Susan M, PhD “Association of Lifetime Cognitive Engagement and Low β-Amyloid Deposition”  The JAMA Network Archives of Neurology May, 2012


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Julian Omidi on the Findings of Exercise Memory

In this article, philanthropist Julian Omidi discusses the study suggesting that exercise assists with physical memory retention.  Julian Omidi is cofounder of No More Poverty with his brother, Dr. Michael Omidi, MD.

If you are interested in increasing proficiency in a new skill, jump on a treadmill!

Yes–it seems, according to a recent article in the New York Times, that in addition to providing massive benefits to physical and emotional health and well being, exercise actually improves information retention.

The study consisted of a test group of fit men who were given the task of tracing a trail on a computer screen using a joystick controller.  A portion of the test group exercised vigorously for 15 minutes before the tracing exercise, another portion was made to exercise after the tracing exercise, and the rest were not permitted to exercise at all.  All of the test groups repeated the tracing experiment again one hour, one day and one week later.  The group that exercised after the initial tracing experiment managed to perform the exercise the most accurately, with the group that exercised before the tracing experiment performing slightly less proficiently than the previous group, but still better than those who didn’t exercise at all.  According to the article:

“What this result suggests, says Marc Roig, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Copenhagen who led the study with his colleague Kasper Skriver, is that physical exercise may help the brain to consolidate and store physical or motor memories. Consolidating a memory is not instantaneous, after all, or even inevitable. Every memory must be encoded and moved from short-term to long-term storage. Some of those memories are, for whatever reason, more vividly imprinted than others.”

So, what does this mean?  The evidence suggests that physical exercise can help with the retention of physical memory.  Physical memory is classified by the association with the memorization of patterns of physical movement, as opposed to intellectual memorization of word patterns or formulas. Previous studies have indicated that exercise does improve the ability to remember, but there hasn’t been any data specifically linked to physical memory.  Now that these results indicate that exercise might strengthen physical memory, the possibilities are legion. Physicians in Copenhagen, where the experiment was conducted, are working with children to find out if engaging them in a workout after their schoolwork helps them to retain information at higher degree accuracy.

It isn’t exactly known what induces the brain to retain memory after exercise; it is suggested that the substances such as noradrenaline released in the brain might have some effect on learning.  However, the timing of the exercise is essential; it must occur immediately after information is first retained.

This exciting discovery might lead to innovations in education and memory rehabilitation after an injury or trauma!

By Julian Omidi


Reynolds, Gretchen. “How Exercise Can Help You Master New Skills.” The New York Times Company, 26 Sept. 2012. Web. 11 Oct. 2012. <;.

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