BLD041204A new study from Columbia University researchers reports that older persons who engaged in moderate to intense exercise were 40% less likely to suffer “silent strokes” than those who didn’t engage in leisure-time activity.

Study author Jushua Z Willey, MD, MS of Columbia says, “These ‘silent strokes’ are more significant than the name implies because they have been associated with an increased risk of falls and impaired mobility, memory and even dementia, as well as stroke.

“Encouraging older people to take part in moderate to intense exercise may be an important strategy for keeping their brains healthy.”

Light exercise is defined as golfing, walking, bowling or dancing.

Moderate to intense exercise is defined as hiking, tennis, swimming, biking, jogging or racquetball.

Willey and his colleagues administered questionnaires regarding frequency and intensity of exercise to 1,238 participants in the Northern Manhattan Study Cohort who had no history of stroke.  43% reported no exercise; 36% reported light exercise, and 21% reported moderate to intense exercise.

Six years later, at an average age of 70, the participants had MRI scans of their brains, which showed that 197 (16%) had small brain lesions called “silent strokes.”  Those who engaged in moderate to intense exercise were 40% less likely to suffer the silent strokes than those who got no regular exercise.

But only the most active elderly saw a benefit against silent strokes.  There was no difference between those who engaged in light exercise and those who did not exercise at all.

“Of course light exercise has many other beneficial effects,” Dr Wiley said.  “And these results should not discourage people from doing light exercise.”

My Take on the exercise categories:   I’d include Swing and Polka dancing in the moderate to intense ranking.

Source: Tufts University Health & Nutrition Letter, April 15, 2013    Study published in Neurology

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