Who would think that doing housework is a way to keep our brains young? Now every time you tackle vacuuming, mopping the floors, changing the beds, and doing laundry, think of them as exercises that are good for your brain! All those chores that we think of as being dull, boring, tiring, and far from pleasant can be included in light activity that reduces brain aging.
What does Physical Activity do?
New research by the Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) indicates that even light activity creates larger brain volume and therefore healthy brain aging. Active individuals who engage in regular physical activity have lower vascular and metabolic risk factors.
The 2018 Physical Activity-Guidelines for Americans recommends that greater than 150 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous (MV) physical activity (PA) each week has substantial health benefits. Even modest levels of physical activity strongly improve one’s health. There is quite a difference between a person being sedentary and being modestly active.
Impact of the Activity
This Framingham Heart Study had 2,354 participants, 1,276 of which were women, had a mean age of 53 years, and 1,099 met the PA guidelines. It found that each added hour of light-intensity activity was equal to approximately 1.1 years less brain aging. That is an achievable level of volume and intensity according to Nicole Spartano, PhD, research assistant professor of medicine at BUSM.
In individuals that do not meet the PA guidelines, every hour of light-intensity PA and doing at least 7,500 steps each day also meant higher total brain volume, which equals 1.4 to 2.2 years less aging of the brain. Active people also have lower odds for health problems that include diabetes, heart disease, and some cancers.
Spartano emphasized that there is a need to explore what impact physical inactivity has on brain aging in different ethnic, race, and socio-economic groups, and she is leading an investigative team. She is grateful to acknowledge the important funding for this research from the American Heart Association, the National Institute on Aging, and the Alzheimer’s Association.