There are a lot of reasons why I exercise. I have said it many times before: It’s the best antidepressant out there. I always feel better mentally and physically after hitting the gym. It also helps me stay in my skinny jeans, shrinking my body whenever it gets a little bigger. However, exercise is probably going to have the opposite effect on my brain as I get older, keeping it plump, according to a study published in Neurology, the journal of The American Academy of Neurology.
According to researchers at the University of Edinburgh, people who exercise later in life — defined as over 70 in the study — showed “less brain shrinkage over a three-year period than those who did little exercise.”
Even more important: “The researchers also examined the brain’s white matter — the wiring that transmits messages round the brain. They found that people over 70 who were more physically active had fewer ‘damaged’ areas – visible as abnormal areas on scanning – in the white matter than those who did little exercise.”
When that part of the brain gets damaged people tend to have problems with memory and thinking. The researchers also looked at some of the other activities that have been thought to help people keep brain function high such as social connections, but found exercise was a far better predictor of brain size and health. There’s a great video here that has an interview with the lead researcher on the study. (Love his accent!) I could leave you with some pithy sentence or thought, but one of the researchers who worked on the project said it best: “This research reemphasises that it really is never too late to benefit from exercise, so whether it’s a brisk walk to the shops, gardening or competing in a fun run it is crucial that, those of us who can, get active as we grow older,” says Professor James Goodwin, Head of Research at Age UK. Amen, brother!