Physical activity can help safeguard your cognitive capacities as you age, according to new research from the University of Georgia, and it doesn’t have to be an intense exercise to have an effect.
The research findings were published in the journal ‘Sport Sciences for Health.’ “This discovery isn’t saying that if you’re older, you should go out there and start running marathons,” said Marissa Gogniat, the study’s primary author and a recent Franklin College of Arts and Sciences doctoral graduate in psychology.
She added, “This is saying if you get more steps, if you’re moving around your environment a little bit more, that can be helpful to your brain health and keep you more independent as you age.”
The study tracked 51 elderly people for a year, recording their physical activity and fitness levels. The participants completed tests designed to assess cognitive ability as well as MRIs to evaluate brain function.
They also wore a device that tracked the intensity of their physical activity, as well as the number of steps they took and the distance they traveled. The researchers measured fitness with a six-minute walking test, in which individuals walked as swiftly as they could to cover the greatest amount of ground in the shortest amount of time.
“We’ve always been told it’s good to exercise, but I think this is some evidence that exercise can actually change your brain,” Gogniat said. “And that impacts the way you’re able to function in your daily life.”