Study links physical activity in older adults to brain

Daily exercise levels have been linked with the degree of mental acumen in older adults.

The study, reported in the journal PLOS ONE, tracked physical activity in 88 healthy but non-fit 60- to 70-year-olds who agreed to wear accelerometers during waking hours and then submit to brain imaging.

The study was done at the University of Illinois.

What they found was that the white matter fibers that allow communication between brain regions but decline with age are held structurally sound in degrees that depend upon a person’s daily physical activity.

Sedentary lifestyles had negative impact on cognitive ability, the study shows. Also the brains of older adults who regularly took part in moderate to vigorous exercise showed fewer white matter lesions, leading researchers to conclude that there is a direct relationship between white matter structural integrity and exercise.

Additionally, the white matter integrity was region-specific and showed that those who regularly engaged in light physical activity had greater structural integrity in the white matter tracts of the temporal lobes. These lobes are located behind the ears and play a key role in memory, language, and the processing of visual and auditory information.

Dr. Ellen Sauter, ND, who practices at the Tualatin Clinic of Natural Medicine in Tualatin, OR, said “This study is proven every day in private practice where we see active elderly patients that are healthy and vital. We also see the effects of sedentary lifestyles first-hand, in the form of heart attacks, strokes and dementia,” she said.

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