Effects of aerobic exercise training on brain structure and psychological well-being in young adults

Y. Gondoh, H. Sensui, S. Kinomura, H. Fukuda, T. Fujimoto, M. Masud, T. Nagamatsu, H. Tamaki, H. Takekura

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

45 Citations (Scopus)


Aim. There is convergent evidence that exercise increases psychological well-being; however, the mechanism of this psychological effect of exercise is not yet completely understood. The purpose of this study was to examine the effects of aerobic exercise training on brain structure and psychological wellbeing in young adults. Methods. University students who had not regularly exercised were divided into training group (N.=15) and control group (N.=15). The training group performed a total 30 periods of aerobic exercise training, while the control group never performed. Whole-brain magnetic resonance imaging scans and mental health questionnaire examinations were performed before and after the exercise training period for all of the participants. A voxel-based morphometry (VBM) analysis was used to compare the changes in gray-matter volumes in the two groups. VBM is an objective whole-brain technique for characterization of regional cerebral volume and tissue concentration differences in structural magnetic resonance images. Results. The results of VBM analysis revealed no change in gray-matter volume in the training group, although the graymatter volume of the left insula was significantly decreased in the control group after the exercise training period. The training group exhibited significant improvement in some scores on the mental health questionnaire after the exercise training period, compared with the control group. Conclusion. These findings suggest that aerobic exercise training may inhibit gray-matter volume loss in the insula, and that a relationship may exist between preservation of insula gray-matter and improvement of psychological well-being by aerobic exercise training.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)129-135
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2009


  • Exercise - magnetic resonance imaging - cerebral cortex


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