To Your Health
January, 2021 (Vol. 15, Issue 01)
Build a Bigger Brain
By Editorial Staff
Exercise is one way to do it – literally. According to research, seniors who participate in the most leisure-time physical activity (compared to seniors who don't participate in any) appear to enjoy increased brain volume and other indicators of brain health.
The study evaluated the positive impact of regular leisure-time activity (meaning not related to one's job, if still employed) among 1,443 older adults (ages 65 years and older) without dementia. The primary brain health variables assessed via MRI scan: total brain volume, cortical thickness, and white matter hyperintensity volume.
Compared with nonactive older adults, seniors who reported the highest levels of leisure-time activity enjoyed approximately 3-4 fewer years of brain aging, according to the researchers, attributable to increased brain volume and other brain health variables, such as increased cortical thickness.
So, what does brain volume have to do with brain health and aging? Brain volume generally declines with age – an estimated 5 percent per decade after age 40 and perhaps increasing in decline after age 70. That decreased volume can mean less brain function capacity, potentially influencing memory, thought processing and other critical brain functions.
Mental decline with age is a universal fear; more so for most people than even physical decline. Enter leisure-time physical activity, which this study – published in JAMA Network Open – suggests can help preserve both! Talk to your doctor for more information on leisure-time activities appropriate for your age and any physical limitations / health conditions.