According to a new study recently published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, seniors who routinely take brisk walks can boost their brain power for better memory function.
The participants in the study who walked briskly at least three times a week achieved better results on memory tests and also increased the size of their hippocampus, an area of the brain associated with memory.
The result of the study suggests that with simple moderate exercise, loss of brain volume in the aging can be delayed and possibly even reversed. Since brain shrinkage is linked to memory impairment in the elderly, exercise could play a role to help improve your memory and in preventing dementia.
Kirk Erickson, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Pittsburgh and lead author of the study stated, “It’s possible that exercise could help ward off not only ordinary mental decline but also dementia.” He also noted, “We can change the brain in older adults.” “It’s amazing that a one-year period of moderate exercise isn’t just slowing down the atrophy, it’s actually reversing it.”
After one year, MRI brain scans showed that those study participants on the walking program had gained about 2 percent in the size of the hippocampus. According to the researchers, this is the equivalent of one-to-two years of reversal in age-related brain shrinkage since the hippocampus shrinks by about 1 to 2 percent a year in otherwise healthy adults. (The shrinkage occurs even more rapidly among people with dementia). In comparison, the groups of participant who stretched but did not perform any type of moderate exercise experienced a decrease in hippocampal volume of about 1.4 percent.
The researchers concluded that the study results “clearly indicate that aerobic exercise is neuroprotective and that starting an exercise regimen later in life is not futile for either enhancing cognition or augmenting brain volume.” The possibility exists that additional benefits could come from getting an early start.
We all know that exercise is vital to your good physical health, but as we age, it can also impact your mental health and help improve your memory.
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