Exercise linked to increased brain activity in seniors

Perhaps the elixir for a young brain comes in the form of a t-shirt, shorts, a bottle of water and a treadmill. Aging might be a natural process, but University of Calgary researchers are looking at how to slow down decreased brain function in seniors by increasing their fitness and exercise.

Brain In Motion lead researcher Marc Poulin said his previous studies showed the more physically active people are, the better their cognitive function is.

This improved brain function includes having better memory retention and thinking skills.

“Our hypothesis is that regular exercise improves brain blood-flow and the capacity of vessels in the brain to respond to increased demand and this contributes to better learning and improved memory,” said Poulin.

Poulin suggested changes in brain blood-flow may also help delay and prevent diseases of the brain associated with aging, including Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.

Although the study is in the data collection phase, Poulin said he is still looking for people between the ages of 55 and 75 years old to participate. To get people on board, the research team is providing incentives including a free gym membership at the U of C for up to six months.

“Volunteers will boost their own health and, if our hypothesis is right, they will keep their brains young,” said Poulin.

Andrea Lazaruk, Georgie Leach and Pat Graham are three friends that volunteered for the study. Leach found out about it and wanted to participate, but only if her two friends came along.

“I’d really like to keep my marbles for as long as I can,” said Graham, who had a relative with Alzheimer’s.

Poulin stressed the research will provide essential information that will help scientists understand how the brain works.

“The implications are huge given the aging population and age-related diseases like Alzheimer’s disease and stroke,” said Poulin.

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