For years, people have assumed that puzzles kept the brain active. But Prof Clive Ballard, professor of age-related disease at King’s College London, said those who wanted the best chance of staving off dementia should opt for a run or a brisk walk. It has long been known that those who take exercise are less likely to develop the condition, but it was only last month that a study at the University of Pittsburgh showed that instead of the brain shrinking – as it does normally at a rate of about 1 per cent a year – it grew by about 2 per cent in those who took a brisk 40-minute walk three times a week. Among those aged between 55 and 80, exercise increased the size of the hippo-campus – the brain’s memory hub – knocking almost two years off its biological age.
Prof Ballard, who was until recently director of research for the Alzheimer’s Society, is leading a study investigating the long-term impact of brain training on older people. The project has already found that puzzles appear to have little short-term impact on the brain. Prof Ballard said some exercises seemed to have some impact in protecting against general cognitive decline, yet had no effect on Alzheimer’s disease. “If people enjoy a crossword that’s great, and it’s possible it does some good. But if people want the best chance of protecting themselves from dementia the answer is to go for a run or a brisk walk, the evidence is clear,” he said. Studies have also suggested social interaction can help to protect against the disease.
SOURCE : calgaryherald.com/news/keep+brain+young/9630803/story.html