Exercise during middle age keeps the brain healthy as per the findings of a new study published in the Neurology journal. A healthy brain decreased dementia risk, including Alzheimer’s risk later in life.
A steady exercising routine is key to a healthy body at any given time of our lifespan. However, the importance of an exercising routine may increase as we age. The study, conducted on 1,583 participants in the U.S. found that being unfit while middle-aged may be linked to a smaller brain volume at the age of 60.
Researchers with the Boston University believe that a healthy brain isn’t the only benefit of an exercising routine during middle age. Preventing heart disease is just as important. None of the 1,583 participants in the study had a history of heart disease or dementia. The study was fairly simple to conduct.
In addition to analysing medical records and assessing health indicators, the researchers asked the participants to take a treadmill test. A follow-up conducted 20 years later saw the participants get on the treadmill once more for their fitness levels to be assessed. The research team also asked for brain scans.
As fitness levels differed greatly between the participants, so did the brain volume. The first treadmill test wasn’t coupled with brain scans. Nonetheless, the lower the fitness level of the participant in middle age, the lower the brain volume in later years. High fitness levels were associated with higher brain volume later in life. A spike in blood pressure levels and heart rate also indicated lower brain volume down the line.
According to lead author, Doctor Nicole Spartano with the Boston University School of Medicine:
“We found a direct correlation in our study between poor fitness and brain volume decades later, which indicates accelerated brain ageing”.
The main finding to take from this study is that exercise during middle-age keeps the brain healthy. A steady exercising routine keeps fitness levels up. In return, people who exercise as they approach middle-age and during this period have an easier time keep heart disease and dementia risk at bay.
The Boston University study couldn’t provide evidence that one factor causes the other. Nonetheless, the findings of the research support a growing body of scientific literature stating the correlation between good cardiovascular health and a healthy brain.
In addition to keeping high fitness levels and following a steady exercising routine in middle-age, the research team also advised people to follow a healthy lifestyle. A balanced diet, maintaining blood pressure and cholesterol levels within limits and keeping mentally active are just as important while middle aged as ever before.
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