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Exercise Makes You Smarter

For a very long time, I've reminded you how important it is to keep active with an exercise program, especially as you get older, to maintain optimal health. The results of a new study comparing mice of diifferent ages place a much greater importance on exercise, especially if you want to maintain and enhance your mental acuity long into your golden years.

Researchers compared groups of old mice (about age 70 in human years) and young mice (age 20 in human years) allowed to exercise on a treadmill as long they wanted with a control group that didn't exercise for a month, then gave all of them memory tests (finding a platform sitting in a small pool of water).

Older mice that exercised performed just as well on the memory test as younger ones did. Even better, scientists found regular physical activity spurred the growth of neurons in the brains of mice, leading them to believe exercise could hold the same promise for seniors in boosting their brainpower and slowing the forgetfulness and confusion that accompanies aging.

And, as you might have expected, older mice that didn't exercise failed to remember where the platform was sitting, probably because they produced few new brain cells.

Although some experts were hesitant to suggest patients who suffer from Alzheimer's may benefit from exercise, there's certainly plenty of proof of it.

One crucial recommendation: Treat exercise as you would a drug that needs to be prescribed precisely to achieve the maximum benefit. And, if you're looking for tips on how to get started, I urge you to review some recent columns penned by contributing editor Paul Chek.

USA Today September 21, 2005

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