Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Gentle exercise can help protect brain in old age

You've heard it before - exercise is good for your mood, your waistline and your overall well-being. Well, it may also be beneficial - even in its mildest form - in protecting us from memory loss as we age and combat infections or injuries.

New research from the University of Colorado, published in the Journal of Neuroscience, studied the effects of running on a group of elderly rats who were recovering from an E. coli infection and found that despite being slower runners than their younger counterparts, they performed better in memory tests than rats who only ran on a locked wheel, reports the Daily Mail.

Exercise seemed to be responsible for stopping changes in the hippocampus (which deals with memory) and preventing memory loss that normally follows an infection like E. coli.

According to lead researcher Dr. Ruth Barrientos: "This is the first study to show that exercise reduces susceptibility to the cognitive impairments that follow infection in ageing animals, and the changes taking place in the brain thought to underlie these impairments."

Previous studies had shown that older rats had experienced memory loss following the E. coli infection, which the younger rats hadn't.

In the study, the old rats only ran an average of 0.43 miles per week, 50 times less distance than the young rats, but the positive effects on their memory meant they performed as well as rats that were not exposed to E. coli at all.

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