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Physical Activity & The Aging Brain

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Physical activity may help protect the cognitive abilities of an aging brain

We’re all aware that we should exercise and eat well. But doing so is beneficial in more ways than one as you age.
 
Physical activity may help safeguard your cognitive capacities as you age, according to new research from the University of Georgia. It doesn’t have to be a strenuous activity to have an impact.
 
The study tracked 51 older adults for a year, recording their physical activity and fitness levels. The participants completed tests designed to assess cognitive ability as well as MRIs to evaluate brain function.
 
They also wore a device that tracked the intensity of their physical activity, as well as the number of steps they took and the distance they walked. The researchers measured fitness with a six-minute walking test, in which individuals walked as swiftly as they could to cover the greatest amount of ground in the shortest amount of time.
 
“We’ve always been told that exercise is good for you,” M. Gogniat said, (she is the lead author of the study) “but I believe this is some evidence that exercise can genuinely affect your brain. And that has an impact on how you can function in your daily life.”
 
Brain networks improve with physical activity
 
The brain is made up of several different networks. Those networks are in constant contact with one another, exchanging data.
 
Different areas of the brain, on the other hand, are active at different periods. When a person begins to finish a task, the network that is active when the body is at rest, for example, turns off. Another network starts up at that point.
 
One of these networks should be turned off while the other is operational. If it isn’t, it indicates that a person’s brain isn’t working as well as it should.
 
These networks are crucial for doing fundamental daily tasks including memorizing critical information and exercising self-control. However, as people get older, these jobs grow increasingly challenging.
 
This is the first study to look at how these networks interact with physical exercise and fitness to affect brain function.
 
“This study is intriguing because it provides evidence that when patients whose brain networks aren’t functioning optimally engage in physical exercise, their executive function and independence improve,” said Gogniat.

Article credit: Private MD Labs

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