Research finds older women who are more physically fit have better cognitive function

Jan 08, 2009

New research published in the international journal Neurobiology of Aging by Marc Poulin, PhD, DPhil, finds that being physically fit helps the brain function at the top of its game. An Alberta Heritage Foundation for Medical Research Senior Scholar, Poulin finds that physical activity benefits blood flow in the brain, and, as a result, cognitive abilities.

"Being sedentary is now considered a risk factor for stroke and dementia," says Poulin, a scientist in the Faculties of Medicine and Kinesiology at the University of Calgary. "This study proves for the first time that people who are fit have better blood flow to their brain. Our findings also show that better blood flow translates into improved cognition."

The study, Effects of Cardiorespiratory Fitness and Cerebral Blood Flow on Cognitive Outcomes in Older Women, compares two groups of women whose average age was 65 years old. From a random sample of 42 women living in Calgary, the study observed women who took part in regular aerobic activity, and another group of women who were inactive. Poulin's team recorded and measured the women's cardiovascular health, resting brain blood flow and the reserve capacity of blood vessels in the brain, as well as cognitive functions. The team included scientists, doctors and graduate students, with MSc student Allison Brown taking a lead role.

The scientists found that compared to the inactive group, the active group had lower (10 per cent) resting and exercising arterial blood pressure, higher (5 per cent) vascular responses in the brain during submaximal exercise and when the levels of carbon dioxide in the blood were elevated, and higher (10 per cent) cognitive function scores.

One study participant, Calgarian Merceda Schmidt, 91 years old, walks about six kilometres per week to her volunteer schoolteaching and piano playing commitments. "It's just in my nature - the batteries I got when I was born. My legs want to go," says Schmidt. "I have to admit, I was nervous before the bike test. I could've done better if my shoe hadn't fallen off."

Source: University of Calgary

Explore further: Major U.S. food makers cut 6.4 trillion calories from products: report

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Video games target Japan's silver generation

Mar 06, 2014

At a nursing home in suburban Tokyo, 88-year-old Saburo Sakamoto darts his fingers energetically to catch characters that appear on a touch screen in front of him.

New microchip sorts white blood cells from whole blood

Aug 06, 2013

Early in 2012, MIT scientists reported on the development of a postage stamp-sized microchip capable of sorting cells through a technique, known as cell rolling, that mimics a natural mechanism in the body. ...

Why men and women handle stress differently

Feb 27, 2013

Men and women handle stress differently. Most people probably would agree with that statement, but researchers at Michigan Technological University are pinpointing the physiological reasons behind what is, ...

Exercise affects reproductive ability in horses

Dec 05, 2012

In the latest issue of the Journal of Animal Science, researchers at Clemson University and the University of Florida examine the impact of exercise on mare reproductive health and embryo transfer.

Recommended for you

ER waiting times vary significantly, studies find

2 hours ago

(HealthDay)—When it comes to emergency room waiting times, patients seeking care at larger urban hospitals are likely to spend more time staring down the clock than those seen at smaller or more rural facilities, ...

Internists report considerable EMR-linked time loss

2 hours ago

(HealthDay)—Use of electronic medical record (EMR) systems is associated with considerable loss of free time per clinic day, according to a research letter published online Sept. 8 in JAMA Internal Medicine.

Kids eat better if their parents went to college

2 hours ago

Children of college-educated parents eat more vegetables and drink less sugar, according to a new study from the University of British Columbia. But it's still not enough, the study goes on to say, as all kids are falling ...

User comments : 0