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With the global incidence of dementia expected to double every 20 years, finding natural ways to combat cognitive decline has become a serious business for researchers across the world.
Yet, up until the mid-90s scientists believed that when it came to your brain, what you were born with was what you got. From there it was all downhill with no new brain cells forming and aging ones dying off or suffering damage.
Well, a brand new study has turned that thinking on its head. And its results have revealed an easy strategy you can use to not only amp your brain health no matter what your age, but also give your memory a much-needed boost.
Grey matter versus white matter
You see, even once scientists discovered that your body has the power to create new neurons in your brain’s gray matter (the area that allows for the creation of thoughts and memories) they still believed the white matter was stagnant.
In fact, the commonly held belief was that white matter, which makes up your brain’s wiring, could not adapt as our lives changed.
Instead, researchers and doctors thought it only got more fragile with age, developing small lesions which are one of the primary mechanisms behind cognitive decline.
However, new research reported in NeuroImage has shown differently.
Simple steps grow your white matter
The research recruited almost 250 older men and women who were sedentary but otherwise healthy.
Each participant then underwent tests to determine their level of fitness, cognitive abilities and the health and function of their white matter using the latest in MRI brain scan technology.
Next, each person was put into one of three exercise groups each of which participated in their chosen physical activity three times per week for six months:
- Stretching and balance training (considered the “active control group”)
- Walking for 40 minutes
- Dancing, including learning and practicing line dances and group choreography
At the end of the study, each group returned to the lab to repeat all of the tests.
Not only did the results show that exercise can actually renew the brain’s white matter — but the best exercise for pumping up the volume was simply walking!
While you might expect dancing to boost the brain the most — because it involves learning steps — those who simply walked three times a week showed the most improvements in brain health.
In fact, “the nerve fibers in certain portions of their brains looked larger, and any tissue lesions had shrunk.”
On the other hand, the participants who only stretched, without doing aerobic activity showed declining white matter health, including greater thinning and tattering of their axons and falling cognitive scores.
So, if you want to keep your white matter plentiful, healthy and operating at its best as you age, take a few brisk walks each week. Your brain and your memory will thank you as you stave off cognitive decline.
Editor’s note: While you’re doing all the right things to protect your brain as you age, make sure you don’t make the mistake 38 million Americans do every day — by taking a drug that robs them of an essential brain nutrient! Click here to discover the truth about the Cholesterol Super-Brain!