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Are you doing this one cheap and easy thing for a healthy brain?

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
MRI imaging shows simple exercises can keep brain structure intact with aging.

Boston University Medical Center researchers have linked one simple thing that can keep our brain youthful. Findings published in the Annals of Clinical and Translational Neurology are the first to show genuine brain health benefits from physical fitness among older adults.


Investigators for the study say they hope the finding gives older adults motivation for exercise. The researchers found physical fitness enhances the structure of white matter in the brain as we get older.

White matter is important because it contains nerve fibers that conduct nerve impulses. Our brain contains both white and grey matter. White matter is important for learning and brain function and serves to connect the brain with grey matter.

The benefit of exercise and improved brain function wasn't found in younger adults, highlighting the importance of physical activity that can help older adults remain independent and cognitively intact.

Corresponding study author Scott Hayes, PhD, assistant professor of psychiatry at Boston University School of Medicine and the associate director of the Neuroimaging Research for Veterans Center at the VA Boston Healthcare System said in a press release: "We found that physical activities that enhance cardiorespiratory fitness, such as walking, are inexpensive, accessible and could potentially improve quality of life by delaying cognitive decline and prolonging independent function."

The study

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Hayes and colleagues compared brain images of 18 to 31 year old adults to those age 55 to 82 for the study.

"We found that higher levels of cardiorespiratory fitness were associated with enhanced brain structure in older adults."

The news is positively good for anyone seeking ways to keep their brain health intact with aging, especially given statistics that dementia and Alzheimer's disease has become a public health concern as Baby Boomers age.

Staying physically fit with something as simple as walking regularly can help keep your brain intact, improve mood and help ensure years of independent living for older adults concerned about risk of memory loss associated with aging.

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