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A Daily Walk: Smart Move for Seniors’ Brain Health – WebMD

By Alan Mozes

HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, Dec. 27, 2017 (HealthDay News) — With New Year’s Day fast approaching, one small, new study suggests that seniors interested in preserving their brain health might want to add walking to the top of their resolution list.

Why? A team of investigators from University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) found that adults over the age of 60 who are already struggling with memory issues are better able to focus and process information if they walk more than 4,000 steps a day (roughly 2 miles).

“We looked at how physical activity affects thickness of brain structures and also cognitive [thinking] performance of adults over the age of 60,” explained study author Prabha Siddarth.

Siddarth noted that brain thickness is considered to be “an early and sensitive marker of brain health.”

The study revealed that those who walked more than 4,000 steps each day had thicker areas of the brain known to be critical to thought processing.

What’s more, such avid walkers demonstrated “better cognitive functioning” than those who walked 4,000 steps or less, she said.

Siddarth is a biostatistician in the department of psychiatry and biobehavioral sciences with the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior and Longevity Center at UCLA.

To explore the potential mental health benefits of walking, the team focused on 26 men and women between the ages of 61 and 88. Nearly 70 percent were women.

While none suffered from dementia, all complained about memory issues.

For one week, all were outfitted with an accelerometer, to track activity patterns.

Participants were then divided into two groups: those who walked more than 4,000 steps per day and those who walked less. (The less active group was older, at an average age of 77, compared with the more active group, at an average age of 68.)

In addition, MRI brain scans were conducted and each participant underwent a battery of mental health tests to assess memory skills, learning skills, verbal skills, attention and information-processing abilities, decision-making function and the ability to execute a task.

Article source: https://www.webmd.com/brain/news/20171227/a-daily-walk-smart-move-for-seniors-brain-health

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