Fitness today, clearer thinking tomorrow: the benefits of exercise on the aging brain

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Exercise is good for the body, we all know that. But did you know it’s also good for the mind?

In fact, new research from the UK has found that getting regular exercise at any time in your adult life can help keep your brain sharp as you get older.

What’s more, starting to exercise earlier in life and keeping it up over time seems to give the most benefit.

A Habit That Lasts a Lifetime

The research team discovered that people who exercised at least once a month at different ages (36, 43, 53, 60-64, and 69) had the best thinking and memory skills in later life.

Interestingly, these people seemed to benefit more than those who exercised a lot (more than five times a month) but only for a short period in their lives.

Sarah-Naomi James, one of the researchers at the University College London, explained that even light activity, like a leisurely walk, could make a big difference. She also noted that it’s never too late to start.

People who weren’t active in their younger years but started exercising in their 60s still saw benefits.

One of the most exciting findings from the study is that the benefits of exercise seem to build up over time.

The longer you keep active, the better your brain might work when you’re older. So, if you’ve been a lifelong exerciser, that’s great news!

The Study in Detail

The team used data from over 1,400 people born in the same week in 1946 in the UK.

These people have been part of a long-term health study, regularly reporting on their exercise habits and taking tests to measure their thinking and memory skills.

The researchers wanted to find out if exercising during a specific time in life was most important.

But their findings suggested that what really mattered was starting to exercise and keeping it up for a long time, rather than when you started.

Why does exercise help the brain? That’s not completely clear. The researchers found that some of the link could be explained by factors like education level, childhood intelligence, and economic background.

People who were more active were also more likely to have attended university, come from a wealthier family, and have higher test scores as children.

However, these factors don’t explain everything. There seems to be something special about exercise that helps keep the brain healthy.

The study had a few limitations. For example, all the people in the study were white, and those from disadvantaged backgrounds or with health problems were more likely to drop out of the study.

But the long follow-up period is a strength that adds weight to the findings.

The results were published in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery, and Psychiatry in February.

Conclusion: What This Means for You

If you’ve been thinking about starting an exercise routine, this might be the push you need.

Not only can it help your body, but it might also help keep your brain sharp as you get older. And remember, it’s never too late to start, and every bit of exercise can make a difference!

If you care about brain health, please read studies about walking patterns may help identify specific types of dementia, and common high-blood pressure drugs may help lower your dementia risk.

For more information about brain health, please see recent studies about this tooth disease linked to dementia, and results showing this MIND diet may protect your cognitive function, and prevent dementia.

The study was published in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery & Psychiatry.

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