From U of CA, Berkeley Wellness Letter

Getting up in years?  Can’t remember where you put your car keys?  Get up and walk around the block.  For 40 minutes.  Three times a week.

AEROBIC EXERCISE   Common knowledge had been that brain shrinkage was inevitable as we aged, setting the stage for cognitive impairment and dementia.  Not so, say scientists at the University of Illinois.  They studied a group of people over 60 who had started a program of aerobic exercise.  MRI scans before and after the program revealed participants’ brains had increased in volume.

This year the National Institute on Aging confirmed the above results in a study involving a control group.  They divided 120 sedentary older people into two groups:  For a year, one group did stretching and toning exercises; the other group walked briskly for 40 minutes 3 days a week.

At the end of the year, MRIs showed that the stretching group had normal age-related decreases in brain volume.  The MRIs for the aerobic group showed increased volume of the hippocampus, the portion of the brain involved with forming memory.  Only the aerobic exercisers showed improvement in a spatial memory test.

Those who work out aerobically not only develop new brain cells but also develop new connections between them.   Researchers concluded that exercisers’ brains are  more efficient and adaptive and better able to resist age-related changes.

STRENGTH TRAINING   University of British Columbia researchers found that the brains of 155 women between ages 65-75 benefitted from strength training, though it was done only once a week over the period of a year.  Moreover, a follow-up test a year later showed that some of the benefits were still present among women who were physically active.

It’s possible that cognitive benefits occur because both aerobic exercise and strength training  increase blood flow to the brain.

So, take your pick.

But do pick one or both as a cognitive investment in prolonging your independent life style.



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