New studies presented at the International Conference on Alzheimer’s Disease in Paris maintain the belief that regular physical exercise – even walking is a key to staying mentally sharp as we get older. These studies fill in some previous gaps in the scientific literature and strengthen the link between brain health and exercising even more. It sends the message loud and clear: “If you stay physically active, you’re buying protection for your brain,” says Eric B. Larson, M.D., the vice president for research at Group Health Cooperative, a nonprofit health-care system based in Seattle.

One of the studies presented looked at 2,809 women over the age of 65 who had a history of stroke or heart disease, or at least three risk factors for these conditions.  Over a period of several years the women answered surveys on their exercise habits.  Many years later they were given a series of telephone-based cognitive and memory tests.  The more active women were, the better they performed on the tests.  The women who were getting the equivalent of 30 minutes or more of brisk walking each day had much slower cognitive decline than the women who got little or no exercise.  Lead researcher Laura E. Middleton, Ph.D., an assistant professor of kinesiology at the University of Waterloo, in Ontario believes physical activity in general is valuable.  “It’s not only that type of purposeful activity that’s important; it’s also the less intense work… stuff like just standing up more often and walking more often.  It’s bad news for those of us, including myself, who sit at a desk all day.  It means that we really need to find some way to get up and move.”     Huffington Post  8/13/12

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