Exercising can knock a decade off the age of your brain, a new study reveals.
The research revealed those over 65 who did little or no exercise at all experienced a decline equal to 10 years of ageing compared to pensioners who reported moderate to intense exercise.
Researchers in the United States looked at figures from 876 people enrolled in the Northern Manhattan Study who were asked how long and how often they exercised during the two weeks before that date.
An average of seven years later, each person was given tests of memory and thinking skills and a brain MRI, and five years after that they took the memory and thinking tests again.
The findings, published online by the journal Neurology, showed 90 per cent of the group reported light exercise or no exercise.
Light exercise could include activities such as walking and yoga. They were placed in the low activity group.
The remaining 10 per cent reported moderate to high intensity exercise, which could include activities such as running, aerobics, or calisthenics. They were placed in the high activity group.
When looking at people who had no signs of memory and thinking problems at the start of the study, researchers found that those with low activity levels showed a greater decline over five years compared to those with high activity levels on tests of how fast they could perform simple tasks and how many words they could remember from a list.
The researchers said the difference was equal to that of 10 years of ageing.
The difference also remained after the researchers adjusted for other factors that could affect brain health, such as smoking, alcohol use, high blood pressure and body mass index (BMI).
Study author Doctor Clinton Wright, of the University of Miami, said: “The number of people over the age of 65 is on the rise, meaning the public health burden of thinking and memory problems will likely grow.
“Our study showed that for older people, getting regular exercise may be protective, helping them keep their cognitive abilities longer.”
Dr Wright added: “Physical activity is an attractive option to reduce the burden of cognitive impairment in public health because it is low cost and doesn’t interfere with medications.
“Our results suggest that moderate to intense exercise may help older people delay aging of the brain, but more research from randomised clinical trials comparing exercise programmes to more sedentary activity is needed to confirm these results.”