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Exercise preserves aging brain

Exercise preserves aging brain

A Scottish research team found that physical activity was more important than mental exercise or social connections in terms of preserving the brain’s healthy white matter.


A new study conducted by a team at the University of Edinburgh and published in the journal Neurology, showed a clear correlation between physical activity and the preservation of normal-appearing white matter (NAWM) in the brain.

Starting at age 70, 600 subjects reported their physical, mental, and social activities. The researchers then followed up at age 73 and used computational image processing to examine NAWM, white matter lesions, and atrophy. They found that the subjects who reported the most physical activity also had healthier white matter—less atrophy and white matter lesions.

Interestingly, in this study mental and social activities seemed to have little or no impact on healthy white matter. As reported in a recent New York Times article, study author Dr. Alan J. Gow commented that the difference may be the advanced age of this particular research cohort. Dr. Gow told the Times, “There might be associations earlier in the life course. Such activities also have important associations with well-being and quality of life, so we would certainly agree it is important for older adults to continue to pursue them.”

Bottom line: This study is particularly relevant to manufacturers, marketers, and product formulators as Baby Boomers age. This generation’s desire to stay active longer may be more than a desire for independence; it could be a vital part of preserving cognitive health. So a focus on keeping the body strong, limber, and pain-free isn’t simply for the joy of movement, but also for boosting brain health—something a huge number of consumers want.

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