As you age, muscle and bone metabolism can speed up. That could be a help in aging gracefully

Published online in The American Journal of Physical Medicine, the research demonstrates a paradoxical benefit of age: The brains of young people who regularly exercise are aging more slowly than those of the elderly….

As you age, muscle and bone metabolism can speed up. That could be a help in aging gracefully

Published online in The American Journal of Physical Medicine, the research demonstrates a paradoxical benefit of age: The brains of young people who regularly exercise are aging more slowly than those of the elderly.

Moreover, the elderly showed a more pronounced decline in memory after performing exercise than did younger participants. Dr. Matthew W. Kriegsman, senior author and a professor of epidemiology at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, said the findings indicate that for the health benefits of exercise to persist well into old age, it should be made a priority for older adults to not only exercise regularly, but also not to shy away from even doing the simple forms of regular exercise.

“The active elderly don’t suddenly become unfit after starting an exercise program,” said Dr. Kriegsman. “They continue to respond to the same types of interventions. That’s why it’s important to keep up activity and not to lower activity levels once you reach a certain age.”

The UCLA researchers recruited older and younger people for their study, making most of the participants just past or in their mid-twenties. Just under half the participants were white.

From 2006 to 2012, participants answered questions about how often they exercised. They performed tests of memory and mental processing speed with a standardized neuropsychological instrument called the Mini-Mental State Examination. These tests were taken more than 10 years after starting the study.

Those who exercised were mostly more likely to be in their mid-20s, but every other age group had improved in cognitive ability after aerobic exercise. Over the 10-year follow-up period, there was no significant difference in the performance of the two groups among people under the age of 25, but senior adults in their 30s and 40s demonstrated better performance than younger ones. (The only difference was the age at which people stopped exercising.) The results showed no association between exercise and general functioning or hospitalizations.

Dr. Kriegsman said it’s important to remember that this study involved just a small number of participants, and it will be years before we can determine whether their findings would translate into real life. But he said that the findings do have real-world implications. “The current ADA [American Heart Association] guidelines recommend that moderate intensity aerobic exercise can be beneficial to individuals in their late teens and early twenties,” he said. “I think this adds to the evidence that this is something that can continue into one’s 60s and 70s.”

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