Simple Exercise Keeps Brain at Top of Its Game

In older women, being more fit helps cognitive function, study shows

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TUESDAY, Jan. 20, 2009 (HealthDay News) -- Physical fitness may be as good for the brain as it is for the body in old age, a new study says.

A study of Canadian women older than 65 found that those who took part in regular aerobic activity had cognitive function scores 10 percent higher than their peers who did not exercise. The active women also had lower blood pressure (at rest and during exercise) and better vascular responses in the brain, suggesting that better blood flow aids the ability to think, the study found.

The findings were published in the journal Neurobiology of Aging.

"Being sedentary is now considered a risk factor for stroke and dementia," study author Marc Poulin, an associate professor in the Faculties of Medicine and Kinesiology at the University of Calgary, said in a news release issued by the Alberta Heritage Foundation for Medical Research. "This study proves for the first time that people who are fit have better blood flow to their brain. Our findings also show that better blood flow translates into improved cognition."

"The take-home message from our research is that basic fitness -- something as simple as getting out for a walk every day -- is critical to staying mentally sharp and remaining healthy as we age," Poulin said.

More information

The U.S. National Institute on Aging has more about exercise for older adults.

SOURCE: Alberta Heritage Foundation for Medical Research, news release, Jan. 8, 2009

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