We all know members of the older set who are amazingly fit physically. A friend of mine’s father played a vicious game of tennis well into his early 80′s, for example. Seniors may be doing themselves more good than they thought by making that lifestyle choice.
A new study from the University of Arizona has found a direct relationship between exercise and healthier aging brains. In older men and women, the research found a direct correlation: the more fit they were physically, the fewer age-related changes showed up in their brains. The conclusions were reached after analyzing aerobic fitness and neural differences.
Robert Lee Hotz notes on the Wall Street Journal’s Health Blog that these findings could bode well for some:
‘Better brain aging is associated with better physical fitness,’ said psychologist Gene Alexander at the University of Arizona’s Brain Imaging, Behavior & Aging Laboratory, who led the study team. [...]
In the U.S., a generation of 78 million baby boomers is turning 60 at the rate of about 8,000 a day. By 2025, those over 60 years old worldwide are expected to outnumber the young for the first time in history, according to United Nations population figures. All told, about 2 billion people are trying to cope with the normal neural side effects of aging.
In addition to the study, there is other research looking at the effect of exercise on degenerative brain conditions. Katherine Hobson explores this in her piece for U.S News- Health:
As U.S. News reported earlier this year in a story about keeping your brain fit, studies in rodents showed that running led to an increase in new brain cells in a part of the brain called the hippocampus that plays a large role in learning and memory. Researchers don’t count brain cells in studies of live humans, but one study of regularly exercising adults did show increased blood flow to the same area. Because of the obvious implications for age-related memory lapses and dementia, much of the human research in this area has been in the elderly, says Henriette van Praag, a researcher in the neuroplasticity and behavior unit in the laboratory of neurosciences at the National Institute on Aging. She’s now studying (in rodents) whether the progression of neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s can be slowed by exercise.
Wouldn’t that be something? This sort of studies are marking new ground, and it’s going to be interesting seeing what they unearth, but, no matter how you cut, it exercise is a good thing.
Even those with impaired mobility have options these days. For those who may not have the stamina for an actual walk around the block there is the Sit-N-Walk, which allows them to still get some exercise while sitting down. For a bit more of a workout, there is the Mini-Bike Exerciser that allows you to pedal along while sitting at your desk or in your easy chair.
Always remember to consult with your physician before beginning any physical fitness plan!