Physically fit older women have healthier brains

January 9th, 2009 - 1:48 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, Jan 9 (IANS) Being physically fit does help the brain function at peak levels, according to a new study. “Being sedentary is now considered a risk factor for stroke and dementia,” said Marc Poulin, scientist in medicine and kinesiology at University of Calgary.

“The take home message is that basic fitness - something as simple as getting out for a walk every day - is critical to staying mentally sharp and remaining healthy as we age,” said Poulin.

The study, published in Neurobiology of Aging, compared two groups of women aged 65 years. From a random sample of 42 women living in Calgary, the study observed women who took part in regular aerobic activity, and another group of women who were inactive.

Poulin’s team recorded and measured the women’s cardiovascular health, resting brain blood flow and the reserve capacity of blood vessels in the brain, as well as cognitive functions.

The team included scientists, doctors and graduate students, with MSc student Allison Brown taking a lead role.

The scientists found that compared to the inactive group, the active group had lower (10 percent) resting and exercising arterial blood pressure, higher (five percent) vascular responses in the brain during submaximal exercise and when the levels of carbon dioxide in the blood were elevated, and higher (10 percent) cognitive function scores.

One participant Calgarian Merceda Schmidt, 91 years old, walks about six kilometres per week to her volunteer schoolteaching and piano playing commitments, said a Calgary release.

“It’s just in my nature - the batteries I got when I was born. My legs want to go,” says Schmidt. “I have to admit, I was nervous before the bike test. I could’ve done better if my shoe hadn’t fallen off.”

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