Moderate to Intense Exercise May Protect Brain
Older people who regularly exercise at a moderate to intense level may be less likely to develop the small brain lesions, sometimes referred to as “silent strokes,” that are the first sign of cerebrovascular disease, according to a new study published in the June 8, 2011, online issue of Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology (AAN).
“These ‘silent strokes’ are more significant than the name implies, because they have been associated with an increased risk of falls and impaired mobility, memory problems and even dementia, as well as stroke,” said study author Joshua Z. Willey, MD, MS, of Columbia University in New York and a member of the American Academy of Neurology. “Encouraging older people to take part in moderate to intense exercise may be an important strategy for keeping their brains healthy.”
The study involved 1,238 people who had never had a stroke. Participants completed a questionnaire about how often and how intensely they exercised at the beginning of the study and then had MRI scans of their brains an average of six years later, when they were an average of 70 years old.
A total of 43 percent of the participants reported that they had no regular exercise; 36 percent engaged in regular light exercise, such as golf, walking, bowling or dancing; and 21 percent engaged in regular moderate to intense exercise, such as hiking, tennis, swimming, biking, jogging or racquetball.