A deepening concern as people age is trying to keep their brains healthy. Good nutrition is of course essential in helping to nurture a healthy brain. A new study has also linked physical activity to better mental flexibility in elderly people reports the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
It may be possible someday to determine how physically active you are by simply taking images of your brain. It has been shown by studies that physically fit people generally have larger brain volumes and more intact white matter than their peers who do not stay as physically fit. Elderly people who regularly get moderate to vigorous physical activity have been found to have more variable brain activity when they are at rest than those who don’t stay active. The researchers have said this variability is associated with improved cognitive performance.
The researchers studied 100 adults who were between the ages of 60 and 80 years old. Accelerometers were used to objectively measure their physical activity over the course of a week. Functional MRI was used to observe how blood oxygen levels changed in the brain over the course of time. The microscopic integrity of each person’s white matter fibers were also evaluated. White matter fibers carry nerve impulses and interconnect the various parts of the brain.
It was observed that spontaneous brain activity showed more moment-to-moment fluctuations in adults who were more active. It has already been shown in a previous study that in some of the same regions of the brain those people who have increased brain variability also did better on complex cognitive tasks, particularly on intelligence tasks and memory tasks. Also the older adults who were more active generally had better white matter structure than their peers who were not as active.
This study has been published in the journal PLOS One. It has been found that there is better brain structural and functional integrity and higher cognitive functioning associated with better cardiorespiratory fitness and physical activity in older people. It is suggested by this study that more fit older people are more flexible both cognitively and in terms of brain function than their peers who do not stay fit. It is important to remember to eat well and stay fit to keep your brain functioning well in your old age.