Take a hike. It just might boost your memory. That's the key conclusion of new research by the University of Pittsburgh that found an energetic stroll three times a week increased the size of the hippocampus, the brain's memory hub — often destroyed by Alzheimer's disease.
"You don't need highly vigorous physical activity to see these effects," said lead researcher Kirk Erickson, M.D. "This may sound like it is a modest amount but it's like reversing the age clock by a couple of years."
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According to the Daily Mail
, researchers asked 120 men and women aged between 55 and 80 to go for a brisk 40-minute walk three times a week. Normally, the brain shrinks with age. But scans done after a year showed participants' key regions — including the hippocampus — had grown by up to 2 percent.
The findings, presented at the American Association for the Advancement of Science's annual conference in Chicago this week, suggest that while exercise isn't a magic bullet when it comes to fighting dementia, it seems may be one of the best ways of keeping the mind sharp.
"Most of the population is still very sedentary and it's very difficult to get people up and moving," Dr. Erickson said. "We aren't training older people to run marathons. We are getting them up and moving at a moderate exercise level several times a week and seeing enormous improvements over a period of several months."
Elizabeth Stine-Morrow, professor of psychology from the University of Illinois, stressed that it is never too early to start doing mental or physical exercise.
"The earlier you change your everyday habits, the better off you are," she said. "But by the same token, it's never too late."
Dr. Erickson said different types of exercise boost the brain in slightly different ways — the key is to find one you like.