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Walking Wards off Mental Decline as We Age

Fitness experts have long told us that regular exercise, like walking, is a smart thing to do, but according to new research, that may be true in a much more literal sense.

According to a new study, walking may ward off mental decline and dementia. The researchers asked about 300 healthy people from 70- to 90-years-old to record how many blocks they walked in a week. Nine years later, the researchers took high-resolution brain scans of the volunteers and found that the more those people walked at the beginning of the study, the greater their brain volume.

The researchers did some follow-up about four years later and found that people who walked six to nine miles a week had half the risk of developing memory problems.

“If regular exercise in midlife could improve brain health and improve thinking and memory in later life, it would be one more reason to make regular exercise in people of all ages a public health imperative,” wrote the study’s authors in a news release.

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia, which slowly kills off brain cells. Even moderate exercise has been shown to build brain volume. There are no current drugs that can alter the progression of Alzheimer’s.

“Brain size shrinks in late adulthood, which can cause memory problems. Our results should encourage well-designed trials of physical exercise in older adults as a promising approach for preventing dementia and Alzheimer’s disease,” said Kirk Erickson of the University of Pittsburgh.

In other words, walking is your best bet – so get out and get some fresh air!

(via: ABC News)

October 16th, 2010

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