|July 24, 2001
Mind in Shape, Too
Physical activity, even of a moderate degree, may help older
people keep their minds sharp, according to a UCSF study.
tracked 5,925 women 65 and older, who at the start of the research had no cognitive
impairments or physical limitations. The women were asked about their physical activity,
including recreation and exercise habits, how many city blocks they walked and flights of
stairs climbed each day.
The women who
were most physically active at the beginning of the study were the least likely to
experience a decline in cognitive or mental functions during the next six to eight years,
seems to be good for the brain/mind as well as for the body,'' lead author Kristine Yaffe,
chief of geriatric psychiatry at San Francisco Veterans Affairs Medical Center and UCSF
assistant professor of psychiatry, neurology and epidemiology, told Reuters. ``This does
not have to be strenuous activity. Even moderate activity is beneficial.''
For every 10
blocks -- approximately one mile -- walked per day, "women had a 13 percent lower
odds of cognitive decline," reported Yaffe.
percent of the women who walked the fewest blocks per week developed cognitive decline
compared with 17% of the women who walked the most (about 17 miles a week.)
The study is
published in the July 23 issue of Archives of Internal Medicine. "
At least 10
percent of persons older than 65 years and 50 percent of those older than 85 years have
some form of cognitive impairment, ranging from mild deficits to dementia," according
to the study.
finding, however, supports the hypothesis that physical activity prevents cognitive
decline in older women.
mechanism of this association is not certain, although it may be related to a healthy
lifestyle, a reduction in cardiovascular risk factors, or a direct effect on
neurons," wrote Yaffe. "Further research is needed to determine if physical
activity programs could prevent clinically significant cognitive impairment and if our
findings can be replicated in other populations."