As we age, the brain shrinks, loses glial and neural cells; and as a result our mental process drops and things get harder to learn and remember. This, in fact, is normal aging, but the rate at which the brain ages is not same for everyone. Well, this thing called brain aging can be slowed down, and these are what researchers from Concordia University say you should do: stay in school and take the stairs.
Grey matter is a major part of our central nervous system (CNS), which makes up 40 percent of brain matter. The functions of the mass of neuronal cells that it contains – such as its involvement in speech, emotions, memory, seeing and hearing – decrease as it ages, but researchers have shown that education and physical activity can significantly slow down grey matter aging.
In the paper published in the journal Neurobiology of Aging, lead researcher Jason Steffener, writes that “the more flights of stairs a person climbs, and the more years of school a person completes, the “younger” their brain physically appears.” This is the first study to establish an empirical link between physical activity, such as taking the stairs and education and improved brain’s health.
For the study, Steffener and his team used magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to examine the brains of 331 healthy adults between the ages of 19 to 79. When measured the volume of grey matter found in participants’ brains and compared to the volume of grey matter of the participants, who reported number of flights of stairs climbed, and years of schooling completed – the team found that for every daily flight of stairs climbed, brain age decreases by 0.59 years and for each year of schooling completed, brain age decreases by 0.95 years.
So the result is clear, more physical activities and more years of education make your brain younger and more healthy.
“There already exist many ‘Take the stairs’ campaigns in office environments and public transportation centres,” says Steffener in a news release. “This study shows that these campaigns should also be expanded for older adults, so that they can work to keep their brains young.”
“This study shows that education and physical activity affect the difference between a physiological prediction of age and chronological age, and that people can actively do something to help their brains stay young.”
“In comparison to many other forms of physical activity, taking the stairs is something most older adults can and already do at least once a day, unlike vigorous forms of physical activity,” says Steffener. “This is encouraging because it demonstrates that a simple thing like climbing stairs has great potential as an intervention tool to promote brain health.”
Reference: Differences between chronological and brain age are related to education and self-reported physical activity.