Monday, September 13, 2010

Regular exercise, even walking, helps prevent mental decline....

Today's Post: Monday, 9-13-2010

Research has already been done showing that regular exercise slows aging, prevents many chronic diseases, and increases longevity. We know that the protective effects keep getting better the more years you have been exercising regularly. We know that exercise grows new brain cells and helps prevent your brain from shrinking.

But some even more interesting news was online earlier today.

Earlier today a section of Reuters news called, “Reuters Life!” published this story:

“Walking helps keep body and brain young.”

“Research shows that walking can actually boost the connectivity within brain circuits, which tends to diminish as….” people get older.

Dr. Arthur F. Kramer, who led the research at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, said that,

"…we found as a function of aerobic fitness, the networks became more coherent."

Kramer's walking study, was published in the journal Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience. It tracked 70 adults from 60 to 80 years old over the course of a year. A toning, stretching, strengthening group served as a control against which to evaluate the previously sedentary walkers.

"Individuals in the walking group, the aerobics training group, got by far the largest benefits," he said, and not just physically.

Kramer and his group used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to look at brain networks & tested a group of 20-to-30-year olds for comparison.

This quote is fascinating.:

“ "The aerobic group also improved in memory, attention and a variety of other cognitive processes," Kramer said. "As the older people in the walking group became more fit, the coherence among different regions in the networks increased and became similar to those of the 20-yr olds," Kramer explained.

But the results did not happen overnight. Effects in the walking group were observed only after they trained for 12 months. Six-month tests yielded no significant trends. “

In short, aerobic exercise sustained for a year or more not only grew new brain cells, it kept their brain’s functions working physically and the networks in their brains intact well enough to keep the mental performance of the exercisers high.

In fact, since this group had been sedentary before this experiment, the walking in this program may even have restored some lost function to their brains.

The only thing this report fails to show or that the research did not look at is whether it was the walking specifically or the aerobic fitness that produced these results.

As is hinted at in the Reuters story, walking is a repeating activity that requires a set of patterned responses.

Would interval cardio of shorter duration but to a higher level of fitness done as well or better than the walking?

I suspect the interval cardio would work the same or better and that if it did, the results would be measurably good within the first 3 months instead needing 12 months to achieve that.

However, as a public health measure for very large groups of people, I also suspect the number who would try and keep doing regular exercise by walking would be greater than the number of people willing to do some kind of interval cardio.

So in addition to slowing down aging, preventing some forms of damage to the brain physically including preventing brain shrinkage in part by growing new brain cells, regular exercise also maintains the networks of nerve connections that are the basis for effective mental performance too!

In addition, there also was another study, done by British researchers, and recently announced showing that people who did enough regular exercise to maintain their grip strength, the ability to walk fast, the ability to get up from a chair quickly, and the ability to balance decently on one leg, lived longer than people who did not.

This study was reported by Reuters Health last Friday and was titled, “Long life goes hand in hand with a firm grip.”

These many studies show that people who fail to get regular exercise simply don’t realize what NOT exercising does TO them and what regular exercise would do FOR them.

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Anonymous Mar said...

Before deciding of having rock hard abs, walking is my daily activity until now. I am happy to say that walking really improved my life for I was not that health conscious.

7:25 PM  
Blogger David said...

Before I Ok'd this comment, I followed the link.

I checked out the link. The information on it looks quite good.

If you did some walking every day and followed the program on the link, you'd likely get some pretty good results.

8:46 AM  
Anonymous Mar said...

Yes it's true. I even share this to some of my relatives.

12:14 AM  

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