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Exercise may trump mental activity in protecting against brain shrinkage

Date:
October 22, 2012
Source:
American Academy of Neurology (AAN)
Summary:
Exercising regularly in old age may better protect against brain shrinkage than engaging in mental or social activities, according to a new study. Research suggests that brain shrinkage may lead to problems with memory and thinking.
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Exercising regularly in old age may better protect against brain shrinkage than engaging in mental or social activities, according to a new study published in the October 23, 2012, print issue of Neurology®, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology. Research suggests that brain shrinkage may lead to problems with memory and thinking.

"People in their seventies who participated in more physical exercise, including walking several times a week, had less brain shrinkage and other signs of aging in the brain than those who were less physically active," said study author Alan J. Gow, PhD, with the University of Edinburgh in Scotland. "On the other hand, our study showed no real benefit to participating in mentally and socially stimulating activities on brain size, as seen on MRI scans, over the three-year time frame." Researchers looked at medical records of 638 people from Scotland born in 1936. The participants were given MRI scans at 73 years old.

The group gave details about their exercise habits, ranging from moving only in connection with necessary household chores to keeping fit with heavy exercise or participating in competitive sports several times per week. They also reported their participation in social and mentally stimulating activities.

The study found that after three years, people who participated in more physical activity experienced less brain shrinkage than those who exercised minimally.

"Our results show that regularly exercising in old age is potentially important to protecting the brain as we age," said Gow.

The study was supported by Research Into Aging, the Age UK-funded Disconnected Mind Project and the United Kingdom's Medical Research Council.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by American Academy of Neurology (AAN). Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. A. J. Gow, M. E. Bastin, S. Munoz Maniega, M. C. Valdes Hernandez, Z. Morris, C. Murray, N. A. Royle, J. M. Starr, I. J. Deary, J. M. Wardlaw. Neuroprotective lifestyles and the aging brain: Activity, atrophy, and white matter integrity. Neurology, 2012; 79 (17): 1802 DOI: 10.1212/WNL.0b013e3182703fd2

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American Academy of Neurology (AAN). "Exercise may trump mental activity in protecting against brain shrinkage." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 22 October 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/10/121022162331.htm>.
American Academy of Neurology (AAN). (2012, October 22). Exercise may trump mental activity in protecting against brain shrinkage. ScienceDaily. Retrieved May 29, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/10/121022162331.htm
American Academy of Neurology (AAN). "Exercise may trump mental activity in protecting against brain shrinkage." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/10/121022162331.htm (accessed May 29, 2015).

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