Physical Activity May Protect Older Adults From Effects of Brain Damage
As people age, it is important to remain physically fit and active. While it becomes a bit more difficult to do some activities later in life, doing what you can to stay healthy definitely counts for something. It helps to promote joint mobility, reduce the risk of obesity-related illness and may even extend life expectancy. If you need another reason to stay physically active later in life, here’s a good one – a new study suggests that older adults who are active could be protecting themselves from the negative effects of brain damage on motor function.
The study, recently published in the journal Neuroscience, looked at 167 patients with an average age of 80 years. The participants wore movement-tracking devices in order to monitor exercise and non-exercise activity over the course of about 11 days. The participants’ movement abilities were tested and they also underwent MRI scans in order to analyze the amount of white matter hyperintensities in the brain. Hyperintensities are small areas of brain damage often found in the brains of older people and have been linked with impaired motor function.
Researchers found the most active 10 percent of study participants scored well on movement tests, despite the presence of white matter hyperintensities in their brains. However, participants at the 50th percentile of activity level had a stronger link between their hyperintensities and a low performance on movement tests. These results were adjusted for instances of potentially confounding factors like body mass index and vascular disease. Researchers believe that the findings of this study could lead to more focus on how adults can protect their brains by staying physically active.