You want to stay mentally healthy, ward off dementia? You gotta move as much as you can, even if it’s daily chores.
Chopping vegetables. Cleaning the house. Cooking a meal. Tidying up. All of these can help.
A new study found that if you are in your 70s and 80s, even routine housework helps your brain stay healthy.
It has a “protective effect,” says Dr. Aron S. Buchman with Rush University Medical Center who led the study.
Previous studies showed that 45 minutes of walking three days a week increases brain volume in those 65 years or older.
The new study published in Neurology is different because they actually examined donated brains. About 450 adults, 70 or older when they started the study, participated. Of those,191 had behavioral signs of dementia and 263 didn’t.
All participants were given thinking and memory tests every year for two decades. In the last years before dying, they wore an activity monitor, an Accelerometer (think Fitbit) which tracked small to rigorous physical activity for a daily average score.
More daily movement meant improved thinking and memory skill, the study showed.
When analyzing brain tissue, they showed who had at least 3 early signs of Alzheimer’s had “normal” cognition when they died.
Buchman said the new research suggests the increased activity may protect the brain even if you are developing Alzheimer’s. Even minimal daily movement can help.
“As long as you have some activity, and you are moving, whether you are chopping onions, typing, sweeping the floor, or evening running,” said Buchman.
Carl Cotman, the director of the Institute for Brain Aging and Dementia at UC Irvine, calls the results impressive. However, the study didn’t cover a lifetime so there is no way to know how other health and lifestyle factors may have affected the results. The study is a great start, says Bachman, but more studies are needed to determine if moving is beneficial to the brain.
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