In USA TODAY, new research shows that older individuals who were regularly exercising at moderate to intense levels may have a 40% lower risk of developing brain damage which could lead to ischemic strokes, dementia and mobility problems. In a recent publication in the medical journal, Neurology, subjects had MRIs done and they determined that these individuals who were more active were less likely to have brain infarcts, which can lead to strokes. When most people think of exercise we think of other health benefits such as lowering blood pressure, bad cholesterol, insulin levels and increasing good cholesterol. Often we don’t think that working out at a higher intensity may help save our brains in the future.
Back in 1993 at Columbia University, these participants were asked to complete a questionnaire about their exercise habits and how intensely they worked out. Six years later they were contacted again and had a MRI scan when they were approximately 70 years old. Out of these 1,238 participants 43% reported no regular exercise, 36% engaged in light activity, 21% in moderate to intense activity. There was no significant difference found on the MRIs between those who did not exercise and those that did light activity. Further research needs to be done to determine exactly why these moderate-intense work out sessions lowered the risk for brain damage. It may be due to the fact that the physical activity will improve the participants overall health and this could decrease their risk of a stroke.
This study should not discourage anyone from doing light physical activity. On the other hand it should encourage everyone that increasing the amount of exercise can offer a wealth of physical benefits, including decreasing risk of brain damage due to a stroke. Making time to engage in some form of physical activity will help improve your quality of life. The American Heart Association recommends that for ideal cardiovascular health people should aim for 150 minutes of moderate intensity activity a week or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity exercise a week. Try to set a goal for yourself this week and work to be active and get yourself moving!
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