Regular exercise – including walking, stair climbing or cycling – has been proven to have amazing effects on your ‘brain age’, with a study revealing it can make your grey matter behave up to 20 years younger!
The study, recently published by the American Academy of Neurology, also found that adults of any age could see a marked improvement in their thinking ability with even a small increase in fitness levels. And the news was even better for older adults, as the results were even more impressive for participants in their 40s, 50s and 60s.
Participants aged between 20 and 67, who were all non-exercisers before the study with below average fitness levels, were split into two groups and assigned to either aerobic exercise or stretching and toning. Aerobic exercise was a choice between walking on a treadmill, cycling on an exercise bike or using an elliptical machine.
They took part in their activities four times a week for six months, starting at a low level and increasing their efforts to 75 per cent of their maximum heart rate within the first month. Their memory and thinking skills were tested before, during and after the experiment and they also had MRI brain scans.
The crucial result was that aerobic exercise increased thinking skills by a significant amount – twice as much as those who did stretching exercises. This range of difference in thinking skills was the equivalent of brains being 10 years younger for 40-year-olds, and 20 years for 60-year-olds.
‘As people age, there can be a decline in thinking skills, however our study shows that getting regular exercise may help slow or even prevent such decline,’ said study author Yaakov Stern, PhD, of Columbia University in New York, and a member of the American Academy of Neurology. ‘We found that all participants who exercised not only showed improvements in executive function but also increased the thickness in an area of the outer layer of their brain.’