Walking 'can stop brain shrinking'

Walking 'can stop brain shrinking'

Walking six miles a week may help prevent the brain shrinking in old age and preserve memory, according to scientists.

Researchers studied 299 healthy older people who recorded the distances they walked in a week.

Nine years later, the volunteers were given scans to measure their brain size. Then after another four years they were tested to see if they were suffering from mental decline or dementia.

The first test showed that people who walked at least six to nine miles per week had more “grey matter” in their brains than those who did not.

Grey matter consists of the cell bodies of neurons, rather than the fibres that transmit signals.

Walking greater distances did not appear to preserve grey matter any further.

By the time the mental tests were carried out, 116 of the participants – or 40% - had developed some degree of dementia or cognitive impairment. But those who had walked the most were half as likely to be experiencing memory problems.

The findings have been reported online in the journal Neurology.

Brain shrinkage is known to be a normal part of ageing and is linked to age-related mental decline.

Study leader Dr Kirk Erickson, from the University of Pittsburgh in the US, said: “Brain size shrinks in late adulthood, which can cause memory problems. Our results should encourage well-designed trials of physical exercise in older adults as a promising approach for preventing dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

“If regular exercise in mid-life could improve brain health and improve thinking and memory in later life, it would be one more reason to make regular exercise in people of all ages a public health imperative.”

More in this Section

Mummy returns: Voice of mummified Egyptian priest heard 3,000 years onMummy returns: Voice of mummified Egyptian priest heard 3,000 years on

Scientists discover how iridescent jewel beetles ‘hide in plain sight’Scientists discover how iridescent jewel beetles ‘hide in plain sight’

Royal assent for Brexit Bill signifies ‘constitutional crisis’, warns Ian BlackfordRoyal assent for Brexit Bill signifies ‘constitutional crisis’, warns Ian Blackford

Four people tested for coronavirus in ScotlandFour people tested for coronavirus in Scotland


Lifestyle

After years of saying no, Patrick Stewart tells Georgia Humphreys why he finally agreed to reprise his role as Jean-Luc PicardPatrick Stewart on boldly returning for Star Trek Picard

Cork teenager Jessie Griffin is launching a new comic-book series about her own life. She tells Donal O’Keeffe about her work as a comic artist, living with Asperger’s, and her life-changing time with the Cork Life CentrePicture perfect way of sharing Jessie’s story

Sorting out Cork people for agesAsk Audrey: The only way to improve air quality in Douglas is to move it upwind from Passage West

The Lighthouse is being hailed as one of the best — and strangest — films of the year. Its director tells Esther McCarthy about casting Robert Pattinson, and why he used 100-year-old lensesGoing against the grain: Robert Eggers talks about making his latest film The Lighthouse

More From The Irish Examiner