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Physical Activity May be Linked to More Brain Activity Later in Life

Previous studies have found that physically fit people tend to have larger brain volumes and more intact white matter than those who are less physically fit. Now a recent study has found that mature adults who engage in moderate to vigorous physical activity regularly have more variable brain activity than their less physically active peers, which is associated with better cognitive performance.

Participants in the study included 100 people between the ages of 60 and 80 who were given accelerometers to measure their physical activity over the course of one week. The researchers used functional MRI to see how blood oxygen levels changed the brain over time. They also evaluated the microscopic integrity of each participant’s white-matter fibers. White-matter fibers carry nerve impulses and interconnect the brain.

The researchers found that the more physically active participants had more moment-to-moment fluctuation in their brains as well better white-matter structure when compared with the less active participants. They suggested this means that more physically active people have better cognitive functioning than less active people.

Researchers from the University of Illinois conducted the study. It was published on August 5, 2015, in PLOS ONE.

Staying active is important for more than just cognitive function. Previous clinical studies suggest that even moderate exercise can help with blood sugar control, reduce body weight, improve heart health, improve respiratory health, and reduce the risk of dying prematurely.

If you’re having trouble staying active, start small. Add a ten-minute walk to your day and increase it a little bit over the course of the week. Or consult a fitness professional who can help you work out a plan specific to your needs.

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