[Paleopsych] BH: Hard Exercise Keeps the Mind Sharp

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Hard Exercise Keeps the Mind Sharp

Ten-year study shows that longer and more intense physical activity could
help people maintain cognitive skills

    Betterhumans Staff
    12/28/2004 3:46 PM

    Longer and more intense physical activity could help prevent cognitive
    decline, according to research based on a 10-year study of elderly

    "Our study suggests that being physically active in old age could keep
    the brain fit," says research author Boukje van Gelder of the
    [8]National Institute for Public Health and the Environment in
    Bilthoven, the Netherlands.

    The findings are based on a review of the data of 295 men, born
    between 1900 and 1920, from the Finland, Italy and Netherlands Elderly
    (FINE) Study. The review included data on the duration and intensity
    of physical activities such as walking, bicycling, gardening, farming,
    sports, odd jobs and hobbies. It also included data on cognitive
    functioning, assessed using the Mini Mental State Examination.

    Mental fitness

    Over 10 years, cognitive decline in men who had reduced their daily
    physical activity by an hour or more was 2.6 times greater than the
    decline in men who maintained their activity. Men who performed their
    daily physical activity with a lower intensity 10 years later had a
    3.6 times stronger decline than men who maintained the intensity

    Men who engaged in activities of the lowest intensity had up to 3.5
    times greater decline than men who participated in activities with a
    higher intensity. There was no decline among those who increased the
    duration or intensity of their activities.

    Activities of medium-to-low intensity, such as walking three miles per
    day, were associated with less cognitive decline than the
    lowest-intensity activities, such as walking less than three miles per

    Memory reserves

    Researchers think that physical activity could exert its benefits by
    improving blood flow to the brain and thereby reducing the risk of
    stroke and dementia. Physical activity might also stimulate the growth
    of nerve cells in the hippocampus, part of the brain involved in
    memory functions, helping build up a reserve to prevent further mental

    "The small number of healthy participants in the FINE study is a
    disadvantage but the study's length is an advantage, and the results
    were consistent and significant," says van Gelder. "Future research
    should include more extensive cognitive testing than the Mini Mental
    State Exam, which is reliable but is only a screening test."

    The research is reported in the journal [9]Neurology ([10]read


    8. http://www.rivm.nl/
    9. http://www.neurology.org/
   10. http://www.neurology.org/cgi/content/abstract/63/12/2316

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