Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 17 August 2019

Light activity and even housework can keep our brains young, a new study suggests

Even light exercise, like doing household chores, can keep our brains in shape

Bursts of activity, like when you're vacuuming the house, could help boost brain health. Getty Images
Bursts of activity, like when you're vacuuming the house, could help boost brain health. Getty Images

When it comes to exercise, it seems, every little helps. A new study published on Friday adds to growing evidence that keeping our bodies active, keeps our brains in shape.

The research, which was revealed in the journal Jama Network Open, found middle-aged and elderly Americans who regularly got even just an hour of light exercise during the week had larger brains on average than those who didn’t get in much working-out time.

Light activity counts

Even if it’s just a minute or two at a time – whether you’re walking around outside or vacuuming the house – light activity and short bouts of exercise are still beneficial to brain health, the Framingham Heart Study showed. This counters the previously held belief that there is a certain amount needed to be done before benefits are seen.

“Our study results don’t discount moderate or vigorous physical activity as being important for healthy ageing,” said Dr Nicole Spartano, research assistant professor of medicine at Boston University School of Medicine. “We are just adding to the science, suggesting that light-intensity physical activity might be important too, especially for the brain.”

Behind the study

The international research team studied three days of activity-tracker data from more than 2,000 middle-aged adults from America, and looked at their brain scans.

Brain volume has been linked with ageing, and about 0.2 per cent of it is lost each year after the age of 60. The shrinkage of brain tissue is also connected to dementia, Spartano added.

In this study, the team found that for every extra hour of light activity per day there was 0.22 per cent greater brain volume. That translates to a bit more than one year’s less brain ageing. Those who took at least 10,000 steps a day, had 0.35 per cent bigger brain volume than those who took fewer than 5,000.

The team said further analysis needed to be done on people doing moderate to vigorous physical activity, and the study has noted limitations, as it was done on primarily white participants and only reflects a specific time period. The authors added that time spent sedentary was not necessarily “bad” for the brain, especially if a person is engaged in a task that requests a lot of mental power.

Spartano said, importantly, people should not take this as an excuse to ignore physical activity. “Higher levels of fitness are linked to longevity and a better quality of life in older age, not to mention being associated with lower rates of dementia.”

Updated: April 20, 2019 03:40 PM