A new study has found that older people who go for morning walks or do mild physical exercises can protect themselves from the effects of small areas of brain damage which can impact their movement abilities.
White matter hyperintensities show up in Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) brain scans of many older people, indicating small areas of damage. Higher levels of this damage have been associated with movement problems such as difficulty in walking.
The study, which was published in the Journal of Neurology, found that people who were physically active did not experience any decline in their movement abilities even when they had high levels of brain damage.
The researchers analyzed 167 people who were around 80 years old. Their level of exercise and non-exercise activity was tracked via the movement monitors that the participants wore on their wrists for 11 days. They also took 11 tests to assess their movement abilities. MRI scans were done to identify the volume of white matter hyperintensities in the brain. The key findings of the study are as follows:
- When compared to the 50th percent in activity level measured using the movement monitors, it was found that participants in the top 10 percent displayed activity equal to walking at 2.5 mph for an additional 1.5 hours each day.
- For people in the top 10 percent, having greater amounts of brain damage did not affect their scores on the movement tests. On the other hand, for those at the 50th percent activity level, greater brain damage was directly linked to noticeably lower scores on the movement tests.
- The average score on the movement tests for all participants was 1.04.
- For participants at the 50th percent activity level, scores ranged from 1.16 for those with the lowest amount of brain damage to 0.9 for those with the highest amount of damage.
- The level of brain damage was higher for those with lower levels of physical activity.
The results of the study highlight the importance of encouraging a healthy lifestyle in older people to prevent the mobility problems as well as brain damage. A healthy diet and regular exercise regimen improves mobility and balance, reduces falls, and enhances the quality of life of older adults.