Living in world where the scope of physical movment is reduced to a bare minimum. Its good to give your sedantry life a break with basic physical activity. Even if you are pressed for time to follow a full-fledged exercise regimen, minute changes in habit like using the staircase in place of the elevator, or taking walking down the street to pick vegetables may come in quite handy. And guess what the little stroll can also advance your brain function and cognitive ability, says a study.
According to the study moderate-intensity walking regimen may reduce symptoms of mild cognitive impairment which may be linked to poor blood blood flow in the brain.
It was found that participants with vascular cognitive impairment, who walked for about three hours per week for six months had improved reaction times and other signs of improved brain function. The Vascular cognitive impairment, or VCI, is a condition where-in the patients have mildly impaired thinking or more advanced dementia caused due to the same kinds of blood vessel damage seen with heart disease elsewhere in the body.
The study which was published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, led by a Canadian team, explained that regular aerobic exercise improves cardiovascular health and cerebrovascular health.
Study’s senior author Terea Liu-Ambrose, a researcher with the Aging, Mobility, and Cognitive Neuroscience Lab at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, added, the physical activity further reduces one’s risk of chronic conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes (type II), and high cholesterol. Developing these conditions results in a compromised bloodflow in the vein, and can have negative impact on the brain. The brain needs a healthy flow of blood to deliver the necessary nutrients and oxygen to its tissues.
It can also benefit the brain by increasing the growth factors. These factors are substances made by the body that promote cell growth, differentiation and survival.
For the study, the team assigned 38 older adults with mild VCI to one of two groups, on a random basis.
One group followed the aerobic program , comprising of three walking classes each weak, for one hour. They followed the program for six months, while the other group was kept under usual care. The healthy diet was supervised and followed for both the groups.
Participants underwent a functional MRI brain scans and similar other tests that measured neural activity and cognitive ability, before the exercise program, and at the end of it.
It was found that participants in the training group had shown significant improvements in their reaction times on the cognitive tests, while the other group showed no such changes in comparison.
Given the small sample size of the study, it may be too presumptious to be interpreting the results of this pilot study already. But the study does point to towards a potential preventive measure against VCI. Liu agreed, that more research is needed to understand the degree of benefits and ramifications of the program but the minimal negative consequences attached to the exercise, should work as a good starting point according to the team.