Researchers have found that physical activity can help protect cognitive abilities as we age. The results of the study were published in the journal “Sport Sciences for Health”.
“This finding doesn’t say, ‘If you’re older, you need to get out there and start running marathons,'” said Marissa Gogniat, the study’s lead author and recent graduate with a doctorate in psychology from Franklin College of Arts. and Science. She added: “It means that if you take more steps, if you move around a little more in your environment, it can be helpful for your brain health and keep you more independent as you get older.”
The study followed 51 older adults, tracking their measures of physical activity and fitness. Participants performed tests specifically designed to measure cognitive functioning and underwent MRI scans to assess brain function. They also wore a device that measured the intensity of the wearer’s physical activity, the number of steps taken and the distance covered. The researchers assessed their fitness through a six-minute walk test, in which participants walked as fast as they could to cover as much distance as possible within the time limit.
“We’ve always been told that exercise is good, but I think this is proof that exercise can actually change your brain,” Gogniat said. “And that impacts how you can function in your day-to-day life.” The brain is made up of a set of distinct networks. These networks are in constant communication, exchanging information.
But different parts of the brain are active at different times. The network that is active when the body is at rest, for example, deactivates when a person begins to try to complete a task. At that time, another network starts. While one of these networks is active, the other must be off. If not, it is a sign that a person’s brain is not working as well as it should.
These networks are key to being able to perform basic tasks in daily life, such as remembering important information and exercising self-control. But as people age, these tasks often become more difficult. This study was the first to examine how these networks interact with physical activity and fitness to impact brain function.
“This paper is exciting because it gives us evidence that when people whose brain networks are not functioning optimally engage in physical activity, we see an improvement in their executive function and independence,” Gogniat said. . “We’re not saying you have to drastically change your life. She continued, “Maybe just take the stairs on the way to work. Get up and walk some more. That’s where you get the most bang for your buck, not crazy high intensity exercise.” (ANI)
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