It goes without saying that practicing regular exercise offers plentiful benefits for our overall health, but as we age, engaging in the same exercise regimes that we did in our youth might not be possible or even advisable.
However, a new study focused on people in their eighties found that those who engage in this simple movement experience a boost in brain health.
The study, published in the November issue of the Journal of Neuroscience reveals the intriguing connection between movement in old age and synaptic and cognitive aging. The researchers followed the daily activity and movement of Chicagoans in their eighties who were also participating in annual memory tests. The team then compared the participants’ activity level to the health of their microglia cells (the immune cells in the central nervous system responsible for brain infections and inflammation). What they found was that those who had more active lifestyles had healthier brains overall and were less likely to show signs of Alzheimer’s disease.
Having a more active lifestyle didn’t necessarily mean that these individuals were participating regularly in rigorous exercise. The study confirms that simple movement, like walking, can protect your cognitive health as you age.
“Physical activity relates to better cognitive aging and reduced risk of neurodegenerative disease,” the study states. “These are the first data supporting microglial activation as a physiological pathway by which physical activity relates to brain health in humans.”
The next step for researchers is to figure out why and how exercise contributes to better brain function, but in the meantime, the results of the study surely are enough to convince us to get outside for a bit of fresh air and an enjoyable stroll.
Source study: The Journal of Neuroscience – Microglial correlates of late life physical activity: Relationship with synaptic and cognitive aging in older adults