This article originally appeared on Live in the Now.
How would you like to have the brain of a 50-year-old at the age of 60? Or the brain of a 60-year-old at the age of 70?
Ten years of aging can make quite a difference in brain function. According to one study, this benefit could possibly be yours — if you exercise regularly.
Active People Have Better Thinking Speed and Memory
Researchers at the University of Miami found regular moderate- to high-intensity exercise may slow mental decline and help maintain cognitive abilities. The effect can be compared to knocking 10 years off your brain age.
Workout habits were surveyed among 876 adults from a variety of ethnic backgrounds. Most of them, 90 percent, were categorized into a low-activity group. This involved walking, yoga or no exercise at all. The remaining 10 percent were categorized in a high-activity group. This involved racquetball, aerobics, running or calisthenics.
Seven years later, the participants were given an MRI brain scan. They were also tested on cognitive skills. These skills included thinking speed, memory, organization and reasoning. Their cognition was retested after five more years.
“We found that those with moderate-heavy activity had higher baseline scores and slower decline in comparison to inactive patients,” the team wrote. Participants who were in the low-activity group performed worse on assessments involving thinking speed and memory of past events. “The degree of decline was equivalent to the expected decline associated with approximately 10 years of cognitive aging,” the team added.
Exercising didn’t appear to help people who already had signs of mild cognitive impairment or memory loss. Lead author Dr. Clinton Wright and his colleagues noted it’s important to start working out regularly before the onset of memory decline. The study was published in the journal Neurology.
Exercise Is Worth the Effort
Other research shows exercise has varied positive effects on the brain. It prevents age-related brain shrinkage and slows the formation of plaque that leads to Alzheimer’s. It also elevates mood and increases creativity.
Those of us who are interested in pursuing wellness through natural means already understand that exercise offers multiple health advantages. Yet, despite this knowledge, it was surprising to find out just how beneficial it actually is for the brain. The study adds to the evidence that shows exercise is an investment that can pay off big.