Exercise can counteract age-related brain issues

By Doug Bennett • Published: June 23rd, 2015
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

For active seniors, here’s yet another health benefit: Older people can ward off the effect that age-related brain decline has on their movement abilities just by getting off the sofa and out the door.

A recent study published in the journal Neurology found that the most physically active seniors did not suffer a loss in their movement abilities, even if they had significant age-related brain damage.

Researchers tracked the activities of 167 people with an average age of 80. They also charted their ability to move and did MRI scans to look for existing age-related brain damage. Seniors who have damage to white matter in the brain were the most likely to have mobility problems.

The results? Age-related brain damage took a greater toll on less active seniors. The most inactive people were the ones whose mobility was most affected by age-related brain damage. Those whose activity level was about average for the group scored lower on movement tests than those who were very active. Highly active seniors were those who walked about 90 minutes a day at two-and-a-half miles an hour.

Researchers at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago conducted the study. They say the findings suggest that exercise makes the brain more resilient. The takeaway for seniors is that exercise helps protect the body’s ability to move — even if there is age-related brain damage.

The findings follow previous studies, which revealed that physical activity helps brain health by enhancing blood flow, producing new blood vessels and improving the circulatory system in the brain.

So while your brain may keep aging, an active lifestyle can help keep your body nimble for years to come.