Aerobics Can Reduce Alcohol's Brain Damage

By Valerie Tejeda 04/17/13

Getting moving can help mitigate memory deterioration caused by booze, researchers say.

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Here’s one more reason to get moving: Aerobic exercise, like running or swimming, is linked to reduced damage to the brain’s white matter following heavy drinking, according to new research. White matter is critical to how the brain learns and functions. The researchers also found the reverse proposition to be true: Heavy drinking combined with a sedentary lifestyle was particularly damaging to the brain. "Heavy alcohol exposure [has been] significantly associated with decreased white matter fiber quality. Substantial, long-term alcohol consumption leads to neural damage similar to the decline as people age,” says Hollis Karoly, one of the researchers at the University of Colorado. “This study found that the relationship between alcohol consumption and white matter depends on how much people exercise. The protective or reparative neurobiological effects of exercise extend to those who drink heavily." Other research has previously found that aerobic exercise can improve self-control, learning and memory. The scientists admit that other influences that factor into the brain-protecting properties of aerobics—for example, people who exercise frequently may tend to have healthier diets and sleeping habits. They're also in the dark as to how much exercise is needed to gain brain benefits: “Given that we did not have control over the duration, intensity, frequency or type of aerobic exercise in which participants engaged," they write, "it is difficult to address the 'dose' of aerobic exercise that may be necessary to obtain neuroprotective benefits."

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Entertainment journalist and author Valerie Tejeda spends her days reporting on books, television, and all things pertaining to pop culture, and spends her nights writing novels for teens. Her stories have appeared on a variety of different publications, including but not limited to: VanityFair, MTV, The Huffington Post, TeenVogue, She Knows, Latina, The Fix, Salon.com, Cosmopolitan, and more. You can find Valerie on Linkedin and Twitter.