AGING
June 1, 2006

Use It or Lose It

Exercising your mind, like your body, keeps it sharp.
It is no surprise that sitting on the couch, eating junk food and watching TV is bad for your body. It turns out, however, that it is not so good for your brain, either.

Poor physical function seems to be associated with an increased risk for dementia and Alzheimer's disease in the elderly, according to a new report.

We know that both physical and mental abilities decline with age, but until now, researchers had not asked if physical decline is directly linked to the development of dementia.

Recently, University of Washington researchers followed over 2,000 people 65 and older in order to track their physical and mental decline. They found that those in good physical shape were much less likely to develop dementia. The study did not attempt to explain exactly how physical and mental fitness are connected. Nevertheless, a strong association remained even after factors such as age, sex, education, cognitive function at the beginning of the study and family history were all taken into account.

"If confirmed," says one researcher, "this study might suggest that exercise, by improving and maintaining physical function, might benefit cognitive function through a connection between the two."
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