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27 December 2004
For Older Men, Exercise The Key To A Healthy Mind
by George Atkinson

The journal Neurology has published a study revealing how walking, bicycling, gardening, farming, sports, odd jobs, and hobbies can ward off stroke, dementia, and cognitive decline in elderly men.

The study focused on men born between 1900 and 1920. Researchers measured the duration and intensity of physical activities such as walking, bicycling, gardening, farming, sports, odd jobs and hobbies. Cognitive functioning was tested with a standard examination. The study showed that over 10 years the cognitive decline in men who had reduced their daily physical activity by an hour or more was 2.6 times greater than the decline in men who maintained their activity.

Activities of medium-to-low intensity, such as walking three miles per day, were associated with less cognitive decline than the lowest-intensity activity like walking less than three miles per day. "Our study suggests that being physically active in old age could keep the brain fit," said study author Boukje M. van Gelder.

Physical activity may improve blood flow to the brain and thereby reduce the risk of stroke, dementia, and cognitive decline. Activity may stimulate the neurogenesis, or growth of nerve cells, in the hippocampus, the region of the brain involved in memory functions. This helps the brain build up a "reserve" to help prevent further mental deterioration.




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