The Checkup: Exercise May Protect Aging Brain

A handful of new studies found that regular exercise in older adults help maintain—and, sometimes, grow—brain volume.

• Experts aren’t calling it a clear-cut relationship just yet, but three new studies found that regular exercise helps older people retain—and, in some cases, even grow—their brain volume, which may help protect them from memory-loss diseases like Alzheimer’s. You can read about all three studies over on HealthDay, but I think the most interesting one is this: U.S. researchers took 120 older, sedentary adults and divided them to two groups—one which did aerobic exercise (walking) for 30 to 45 minutes three times a week, and another which did stretching and toning exercises. Reports HealthDay: “A year later, MRI brain scans showed that the size of the hippocampus, a region of the brain involved with memory, increased by 2 percent in the walking group. In the stretch-toning group, hippocampal brain volume declined by 1.5 percent.” The findings are particularly interesting considering that adults lose 1 percent of brain volume each year once they reach their 50s. Although shrinking brain volume hasn’t necessarily been linked with memory problems—the article calls that area of study “murky”—another study found that older folks who exercised performed better on memory tests than their sedentary counterparts. To me, it’s a possible link worth considering—and definitely reason enough to get moving regularly.

• The Los Angeles Times published a tome on why you shouldn’t believe everything TV doctors (i.e. Dr. Oz) tell you, looking at recent hot-button health topics like the effect of probiotics on digestion.

• Can’t wrap your mind around how big 50.7 million—the number of uninsured people in the U.S. experts always toss around—actually is? Yeah, me neither. Which is why I love this new chart from the Washington Post, illustrating what that out-there number means in terms we can better understand. For example, it’s the same as one-and-a-half times the population of Canada. Or 1.8 times the number of American Twitter users. Read more here.