Here’s the secret to a healthy brain

    • Researchers at the Columbia University Irving Medical Center found that being active in mid-life leads to healthier brains in later life.
    •  Based on brain scans, study participants who engaged in moderate to vigorous physical activities such as running or cycling over a course of 25 years were shown at the end of the study to have lesser damage and disease in their brain.
    • Study results also suggested that a 10-minute exercise a day greatly helps with overall brain health and is key to maintaining memory and thinking skills throughout our lifetime.

As we grow older, we try to keep our mind sharp and active through activities like reading and solving puzzles. But a new study at the Columbia University Irving Medical Center also found that working out during middle age greatly helps the mind just as much as it benefits the body.

The researchers also suggest that incorporating 10 minutes of physical exercise- such as brisk walking, running or cycling -a day in your daily routine is linked with less brain decline 25 years later.

According to their findings, greater amounts of ‘moderate-to-vigorous intensity’ physical activity in middle age have a ‘protective’ effect on the brain in later life.

“This study adds to the body of evidence showing that exercise with moderate-to-vigorous intensity is important for maintaining thinking skills throughout your lifetime,” study lead author Dr. Priya Palta said.

In the study, 1,600 people with a median age of 53 were involved. Each rated their weekly activity levels once at the start of the study and again at two later times over the 25-year period. Each participant also reported the amount of time they performed moderate-to-vigorous intensity physical activity which were classified as none, low, middle or high.

Brain scans were then used to measure each person’s grey and white matter as well as check for lesions, injuries or disease in the brain. Lesions are small areas of damage in the brain.

After taking into account lifestyle factors and demographics, outcomes showed that people with no moderate-to-vigorous physical activity in mid-life had a higher chance of developing brain lesions after 25 years by 47 percent, compared to those who engaged in exercise.

“Getting at least an hour and 15 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous intensity physical activity a week may be important throughout your lifetime for promoting brain health and preserving the actual structure of your brain,’ Palta said.

“In particular, engaging in more than two-and-a-half hours of physical activity per week in middle age was associated with fewer signs of brain disease,” she noted.

The brain scans also allowed the team to measure how much damage to the brain’s white matter was incurred and found that greater activity levels led to more intact white matter.

While past studies have denoted that inflammation or other damage to the blood vessels in the brain may cause brain lesions, Dr. Palta said their research gives evidence that physical activity may positively impact cognition through its effects on the brains’ small blood vessels.

Additionally, the researchers studied the movement of water molecules in the brain tissue. At the end of the study, those who reported high physical activity in mid-life had movement that was beneficial unlike participants who reported no mid-life activity.

“The results demonstrate that being active in mid-life has real brain benefits, particularly ‘consistently high levels of mid-life moderate-to-vigorous physical activity,” concluded Dr. Palta.

The study was published online in the medical journal Neurology.

Source: Daily Mail