We already know that regular exercise can prevent a host of physical problems, as well as help you maintain your weight. Now, a study published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease (in January) promises positive results for your long-term mental health as well!
Twenty-nine participants, all over the age of 60, volunteered to log their daily exercise and then submit to medical and cognitive testing at the end of two years. Researchers divided study participants into two groups, according to their exercise habits: Those who walked at least 4,000 steps per day, and those who walked less. Study participants wore accelerometers to track activity.
After two years, the group who walked more than 4,000 steps per day performed better on tests of cognitive function. Their attention spans, processing speeds, and executive functioning skills all tested as “significantly superior” to the non-exercising group of participants.
The difference was visible in brain scans as well: The exercising group had thicker brain structures, which is commonly believed to be correlated to brain health.
What causes the difference? We don’t know for sure, but researchers believe that physical activity either increases the brain’s plasticity (ability to change with age), or increases brain-derived neurotrophic factor (associated with cognition), or both.
The bottom line is that exercise can help you maintain your mental health, while keeping you physical healthy as well. And it’s as simple as going for a daily walk! Of course, other forms of exercise are acceptable as well. There is no reason to believe that walking is the only activity that stimulates brain health.
If you’re concerned about your weight or other factors related to aging, call us to schedule an appointment. We can offer a physical examination, nutritional advice, and guidance to help you achieve your goals.