APR 05, 2016 4:45 AM PDT

Working Out Keeps the Brain Young

Exercise! Get on up, get to the gym, go to a Zumba class or just go for a walk but make sure you exercise. It’s not a fad, hundreds of studies have shown that regular exercise can improve cardiovascular health, ease the pain of arthritis and even stave off depression. The CDC Physical Activity guidelines suggest that adults need 150 minutes per week of moderate aerobic exercise and two days of strength training exercises that work the large muscle groups to remain healthy. 
Staying active can keep the brain young

A new study from research teams at NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center (CUMC) and the University of Miami, with support from the National Institutes of Health and National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke has suggested that exercise has another benefit: slowing down the aging process, at least in terms of age-related cognitive decline.
The study was based on data from participants in the Northern Manhattan Study (NOMAS), a research study of stroke and stroke risk factors in the Northern Manhattan community conducted at the Neurological Institute, Columbia University, Division of Stroke and Critical Care. It’s what is known as a “population based observational study” and the results were significant.
876 people enrolled in the completed questionnaires in person with researchers detailing their amount and type of exercise. The study divided the activity of study participants into two categories: no exercise to light intensity and moderate to heavy intensity exercise.
The study also made use of brain MRI scans and neuropsychological examinations that tested executive function, processing speed, episodic memory and semantic memory. Five years later the exams were repeated
In a press release,  Dr. Mitchell S.V. Elkind, professor of neurology at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, attending neurologist on the Stroke Service at NewYork-Presbyterian and an author on the study  said, “The study found that people who did not exercise or exercised with only light intensity experienced cognitive decline that was equal to 10 more years of aging than people who reported exercise with moderate to heavy intensity.” 
90% of the participants in the study fell into the category of low activity, reporting either no activity or very light exercise such as an occasional walk or yoga class. The others reported more intense activity such as jogging or aerobics classes.
Since there had been testing and information at the beginning of the study, the researchers could sort out those participants who had no memory issues when the study began and compare those results to the testing conducted five years later. The testing showed a greater rate of cognitive decline in the low activity group as compared to the group that reported higher levels of exercise. Even though the study was adjusted mathematically for factors like smoking, body mass index, and high blood pressure the difference in cognitive decline was equal to that of ten years worth of aging. 
The team in New York stressed that more research is needed since this study did not look at lifetime patterns of exercise and other healthy habits. Take a look at the video below to learn more about the study and what the affect of exercise could mean for an ever increasing aging population.

 Sources: CDC, New York Presbyterian, CBS News
About the Author
  • I'm a writer living in the Boston area. My interests include cancer research, cardiology and neuroscience. I want to be part of using the Internet and social media to educate professionals and patients in a collaborative environment.
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