Walking May Help Protect Aging Brain

As people age, many may become concerned about having an aging brain that starts to works less efficiently. As people age, they tend to forget more and experience a gradual decrease in brain power as compared when they were younger. Although it may be a normal occurrence as a result of aging, there are ways to help delay it. Researchers recently found out that regular walking may help.

There are new findings that suggest walking around at least 6 miles per week may help prevent brain shrinkage due to aging. As a result of this, aging individuals may also help protect against age-related memory loss. The study results were published on the October online issue of Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

According to Kirk I. Erickson, PhD, lead author with the researchers at the University of Pittsburgh, “Brain size shrinks in late adulthood, which can cause memory problems. Our results should encourage well-designed trials of physical exercise in older adults as a promising approach for preventing dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.”

The study involved 299 participants who are also known to be dementia-free. The participants recorded the number of blocks that they walk in one week. After a period of 9 years, the researchers took brains scans of the participants to measure their brain sizes. After a period of another 4 years, the participants were then tested to determine if anyone developed cognitive impairment or dementia.

The results showed that the participants who walked an average of 72 blocks per week or around 6 to 9 miles had showed brains with larger gray matter volume as compared to those who did not walk as much. The measurement was done 9 years after their recorded activity. Walking more than 72 blocks though did not seem to show any further increase in gray matter volume.

After another four years, 116 of the participants or 40 percent of the study group had developed cognitive impairment or dementia. The researchers found that those who walked the most also had their risk of developing memory problems cut into half.

“If regular exercise in midlife could improve brain health and improve thinking and memory in later life, it would be one more reason to make regular exercise in people of all ages a public health imperative,” Erickson further added.

Source: American Academy of Neurology. “Walk Much? It May Protect Your Memory Down the Road.” ScienceDaily, 14 October 2010. Web. 12 November 2010. <http://www.sciencedaily.comĀ­ /releases/2010/10/101013164703.htm>


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