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Physical Activity May Slow Aged-Related Mobility Issues, Even With Brain Damage

As we age, small areas of brain damage can occur that can affect movement abilities. A recent study suggests that being physically active may lower the risk that this type of brain damage will result in movement problems in mature adults.


Participants in the study included 164 people with an average age of 80. Over the course of 11 days, all of the participants wore movement monitors on their wrists in order to gauge both exercise and non-exercise activity. They also underwent 11 movement ability tests and MRI scans in order to determine the volume of white matter hyperintensities in their brains. White matter hyperintensities are how brain damage appears on MRIs.


Compared to the participants in the 50th percentile of activity level, those in the 10th percentile logged additional daily activity equivalent to 1.5 hours of walking at 2.5 mph.


For all of the participants, the average score on the movement test was 1.04. In the 50th percentile activity level, participants with the lowest brain damage had scores of 1.16 and those with the most brain damage had scores of 0.9. Participants below the 50th percentile of physical activity saw even more pronounced negative effects on movement.


Participants in the 10th percentile with brain damage did not have changes in their movement tests. However, participants who fell into the 50th percentile did show significantly lower scores on their movement tests when they also had higher brain damage.


Researchers from Rush University Medical Center in Chicago conducted the study. It was published online ahead of print on March 11, 2015, in the journal Neurology.


Previous clinical studies suggest that even moderate exercise can reduce your risk of dying prematurely, help with blood sugar control, reduce body weight, improve heart health and improve respiratory health. Even a brisk ten-minute walk a day can help.

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