Exercise might help keep seniors moving longer despite old age brain decline

Exercise might help keep seniors moving longer despite old age brain decline

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By Bonnie Benton

Older people who are physically active might be protecting themselves from the effects of small areas of brain damage that can affect their movement abilities, according to a new study. Findings were published March 11 on the website of Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

Many older people have small areas of damage in their brains seen on magnetic resonance imaging as white matter hyperintensities. Higher levels of this damage have been linked to more problems with movement, such as difficulty walking. But the new study found people who were the most physically active did not have a drop-off in their movement abilities, even when they had high levels of brain damage.

“These results underscore the importance of efforts to encourage a more active lifestyle in older people to prevent movement problems, which is a major public health challenge,” study author Debra A. Fleischman, PhD, of Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, said in a news release. “Physical activity may create a ‘reserve’ that protects motor abilities against the effects of age-related brain damage.”

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