Fitness in middle age may help ward off brain decreases later in life

A 2015 study by the U.S. National Institute on Aging (NIA) seems to indicate that people with better aerobic fitness in middle age may help preserve memory and other brain functions later in life. Using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to detect changes in brain volume, people who were more physically fit at 50 had more brain volume later in life, and greater volume of white matter.

This study and others like it link exercise to better brain health later in life. Moreover, previous research has linked cardiorespiratory fitness with improved memory of faces and events. However, not all people achieve the same results, and questions remain as to whether exercise helps keep older people sharp or if sharp, older people exercise more.

Subsequent studies continue to seek more answers. The EXERT Study is testing whether physical exercise can slow the progression of mild memory loss and/or mild cognitive impairment in older adults between the ages of 65-89, and the U.S. POINTER Study is a two-year clinical trial to evaluate if lifestyle changes, such as exercise, diet, and cognitively stimulating activities, can protect memory and thinking in older adults who are at an increased risk of significant memory loss.

Aside from brain health, exercising as you get older has many other health benefits, including enhanced mobility, weight management and improved sleep. Read more about the benefits of staying active even as you age.

Visit the HMConnection page to read more articles.

WBTL-0799 (Jan. 20)

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