The study, from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine and published in the American Journal of Neuroradiology, looked at seven men and seven women ages 60 to 80 who were divided into two groups: the first group was active for at least 180 minutes per week for more than 10 years, while the second group spent less than 90 minutes per week doing any physical activity.
Exercise and the Brain
The blood vessels in the brain naturally narrow and twist with age, but in the people in the active group, the brain’s blood vessels were less twisted, and more closely resembled the brains in younger adults. The results of this study will likely lead to further studies to find out if seniors starting physical activity can reverse some of the symptoms of aging in the brain.
In the meantime, becoming physically active is a good idea for many seniors. After checking with a physician, gradually starting an exercise program can be good for many areas of health in older people.
- Seniors are more likely to be deficient in vitamin D because as people age, their bodies process it less efficiently. Getting outside for any activity during the day, whether it’s walking, swimming or any other favorite activity, can increase the amount of sunshine on the skin and therefore increase the vitamin D synthesized by the body.
- Strength exercises are important, obviously, for staying strong, but also for increasing bone density. Simply lifting soup cans as weights can be a good start.
- Falls are one of the main causes of injury to seniors. Balance exercises reduce the risk of this happening. Trying yoga or tai chi can improve balance and lower-body strength significantly. And the mild stretches can increase your range of motion. Taking classes can also be a great social outing.
- In addition to helping maintain a healthy weight, regular exercise can reduce the risk of illnesses and chronic disease, improve the immune system, help with sleep and improve mood.
If you’re thinking of starting an exercise program, in addition to getting an OK from a doctor, start slowly. Even walking two houses down the street and back is better than doing nothing. Gradually do more every day until your strength and endurance increases.
If possible, exercise with someone, both for enjoyment and in case you need assistance. This can not only make the time go faster but also motivate you to keep exercising, since someone else is relying on you for company.