Exercising routinely does not just do a body good. It is beneficial for your brain, too, new research reaffirms. Particularly if you are older.
Breaking a sweat on the regular can keep your mind more nimble and focused, researchers at the University of Miami and Columbia University have found.
Their findings, published in the journal Neurology, suggest that even moderate exercise, like a relaxing swim or a brisk jog, may help older individuals significantly slow down aging in the brain. Intense exercise, if you are up for it, also packs the potential to yield the same brain benefits.
The study, which took a decade to complete, initially weighed the physical activity of 1,200 participants. They reported their exercise habits to researchers for the 2-week period prior to their introductory interviews. Then, five years later, 876 study of those participants, notably fewer than the total that originally signed-on, returned to undergo a battery of neurological tests. These included various memory and cognitive exams and an MRI.
The verdict: Study subjects who exercised (both intensely and moderately, i.e. biking and running, etc.) held onto their mental skills better than subjects who exercised lightly (i.e. gardening and walking, etc.) or not at all.
Perhaps the most hopeful finding for baby boomers—and for anyone lucky enough to celebrate dozens of birthdays—is that the more physically active participants exhibited the mental capacity of someone 10 years younger.
We like the sound of a younger, sharper brain—reason number 921 to get off your duff and get a move on. But, wait.
Before you get jiggy on that elliptical or dust off your tennis racket, bear in mind that lead study author Dr. Clinton Wright slapped a bit of a wet blanket on the findings. The University of Miami neurologist was careful to point out that the data collected did not actually prove that exercise alone keeps a brain younger.
Other factors researchers say contribute to retaining a more youthful mind: not having diabetes and high-blood pressure, and—no surprise here—not smoking.
The bottom line: Keep on keepin’ on and with gusto. It does a body and a mind good, no matter your age.
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