If you are in your 40s or 50s and think it’s too late to start an
exercise program, think again. A recent study from the National Institute
on Aging says exercise can help you mentally as well as physically.
“Research has shown that exercise holds many advantages for older
adults when it comes to the health of their bodies,” says
Michael Stouder, MD, a family medicine physician with
Mission Heritage Medical Group in Foothill Ranch. “For instance, working out with weights helps
strengthen the bones, which can guard against osteoporosis, and balancing
exercises make seniors less susceptible to falls. Plus, exercising can
help maintain a healthy weight and lower the risk of disease. “
But exercise can also help maintain the health of the mind, Dr. Stouder
adds. The new study, published in
The Journals of Gerontology, focused on the effect of midlife cardiorespiratory fitness on brain function
in later years. Using treadmill tests and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
to measure participants’ physical and mental strength, the study
authors suggest active middle-age adults who don’t exhibit any cognitive
health issues can have stronger brain activity when they are seniors.
“The areas of the brain that appeared to benefit include those that
govern language, memory, perception and the ability to recognize objects,”
Dr. Stouder says.
It’s not the first study to suggest that exercise boosts the brain.
For example, a 2014
Neurology report found that participants who were physically active in their 20s
and 30s had better brain function in middle age. And a Finnish study published in the
Journal of Internal Medicine that same year stated that people who self-identified as unfit had a higher
risk of dementia, compared to those who were more active.
If you are in midlife and would like to start an exercise regimen, Dr.
Stouder suggests talking with your physician, especially if you have preexisting
health conditions, and aiming for at least 30 minutes of moderate activity
five days a week. “If you are just starting out, walking is great
exercise. As you progress in your fitness, aim for a mix of cardio and
strength training, as well as some stretching exercises for flexibility.”
For more information about Mission Heritage Medical Group, click
here. For more information about Dr. Stouder, click
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