Physical activity is beneficial. But not everything is known about her
There is a scientific consensus that factors in unhealthy lifestyles increase the risk of cognitive impairment and, ultimately, dementia. At the same time, physical activity is considered to be an effective measure of maintaining cognitive abilities.
The definition of physical activity includes a variety of activities, including professional activity, housework, exercise in your free time. There are many gaps in the data on how different types of physical activity affect brain health. They need to be closed in order to develop an effective dementia prevention strategy.
Previously, much of the research in this area has focused on leisure time physical activity. They showed that moderate to high-intensity exercise and good aerobic endurance were associated with increased gray matter volume and improved white matter integrity (1, 2, 3, 4). Moreover, a number of studies have shown that the amount of gray matter can increase even in people who started exercising in old age (1, 2). Similar effects are associated with overall activity levels.
Housework is good for the brain
The authors of the new study emphasize the importance of studying the role of homework in the context of brain health, since such activities (cooking, cleaning, etc.) are an integral part of the life of a large number of people. They naturally resist a sedentary lifestyle.
“Scientists already knew that exercise has a positive effect on the brain. But our study shows for the first time that this is true for household chores, ”commented Noah Koblinsky of Bycrest Hospital in Toronto, exercise physiology specialist and lead author of the study.
The new study involved 66 elderly people with no cognitive impairment. The researchers matched the participants’ gray matter volume with how much homework they did.
Participants in the study were asked how often they clean the floor, dust, prepare food, shop, do heavy housework, yard and garden work, look after children, and so on. To study the structure of the brain, the authors of the study used magnetic resonance imaging.
It turned out that the more older people are involved in household chores, the more gray matter they have, no matter how often they exercise in their free time. The amount of gray matter in them increased in the frontal lobe of the brain and the hippocampus (a region that plays an important role in learning and memory).
Scientists have listed several mechanisms by which household chores could hypothetically affect gray matter volumes. Similar to low-intensity aerobic exercise, it can improve heart and vascular health. The regular planning and organizational work required to complete household chores can help form new neural connections in the brain. Finally, a decrease in sedentary time, which is associated with many harmful health effects, including improved cognitive performance.
This data, according to scientists, can motivate people to be more active. On a formal level, they should lead to a change in the recommendations for the prevention of dementia.