Latest News » Regular physical activity may help protect brain’s mobility center from age-related damage

Staying physically active can help ward off age-related brain damage, according to a new study.

It's an unfortunate but inevitable fact of life that as we get older, our brain's ability to function becomes less reliable and effective. Forgetfulness creeps in more often, cognitive thinking isn't as sharp as it used to be and, for many seniors, damage to the part of the brain that governs mobility can making getting around significantly more difficult. However, a new study finds that keeping yourself physically active as you get older may actually help safeguard the brain from damage to its mobility center.

A research team at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago investigated the appearance of white matter hyperintensities on the MRI scans of older patients and found a possible link between those patches of damaged brain tissue and the patient's exercising habits. Those findings, published in the March 11 edition of Neurology, were extrapolated from a study of 167 patients with an average age of 80 years old. Participants were asked to wear movement monitors — tracking both exercise and non-exercise activity — on their wrists for 11 days, as well as undergo 11 movement ability tests and a round of MRI scans to gauge each patient's level of white matter hyperintensities.

"The researchers found that those seniors who exercised the most, even if they had high levels of brain damage, maintained their scores on the movement tests," writes HealthDay News. "However, for those who exercise less, brain damage was associated with lower scores on the movement tests."

Debra Fleischman, the study's lead researcher, noted that this association would indicate that daily physical activity may help preserve brain health against age-related damage — and wouldn't require frequent vigorous exercise on the patient's part either.

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