Rigorous exercise may do more than protect the heart, trim the waistline, and keep bones strong. New research suggests strenuous physical activity can slow brain aging by as much as 10 years, the Los Angeles Times reports.
Scientists followed 876 older adults for five years, tracking their physical activity and testing their memory and thinking skills. MRI scans also enabled researchers to assess their brain health. Repeat tests conducted five years later revealed the participants’ brain function was closely tied to how physically active they were. Those who opted for moderate to strenuous exercise, such as running and aerobics, had the highest scores and lowest risk for memory loss and decline in executive function. Less intense activities, including walking and yoga, produced only modest benefits.
The brains of those who were sedentary, on the other hand, looked a decade older than the brains of their very active peers. They also had higher blood pressure and signs of undetected mini strokes. Rigorous exercise, researchers say, improves vascular health and increases blood flow to the brain, keeping it healthier into old age.
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