Staying fit has a lot of health benefits, and two new studies show that exercise and weight management may help keep your mind–as well as your body–healthy.
One study found that for women, taking walks may help fend off memory loss and other signs of cognitive decline–and the more exercise, it seems, the better.
“A little was good, but even more was better,” says study author Kristine Yaffe, MD, assistant professor of psychology, neurology, and epidemiology at the University of California at San Francisco and chief of geriatric psychology at the San Francisco Veterans Affairs Medical Center.
The study followed 5,925 women age 65 and over, none of whom showed signs of cognitive decline or physical problems that would keep them from exercising. The researchers also measured the women’s amount of exercise. Walking was the most common activity.
After 8 years, about 20% of the women showed signs of cognitive problems. But, Yaffe says, “those in the higher exercise group had much lower levels of cognitive decline.” These results are just observational, Yaffe notes, so further research is necessary to confirm the findings and learn how the process works.
The other good news, Yaffe says, is that you don’t have to run marathons to see healthy results, and the same goes for the heart-healthy benefits of exercise.
Regular physical activity is one way people can work toward achieving a healthy weight. For men, getting in shape may be an important way to lower stroke risk.
Researchers in Boston found that the higher a man’s body mass index, or BMI (a measure that takes into account weight in relation to height), the higher his risk of stroke.
“If you’re leaner, the better,” says study author Tobias Kurth, MD, MSc, research fellow at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School.
To calculate your BMI using common US measurements (BMI can also be calculated using the metric system), multiply your weight in pounds by 703, then divide that number by your height in inches squared. You can also calculate your BMI using the CBSHealthWatch BMI calculator.
In Kurth’s study, each unit of increase in BMI–one unit is equal to about 7.4 pounds for a 6-foot tall man and 6.2 pounds for a 5-foot 6-inch tall man–led to a 6% increase in stroke risk.
Over 20,000 stroke-free men taking part in the Physicians’ Health Study, a health study which has been tracking a group of doctors for decades, were part of the group studied. Over 12 years, 747 strokes were identified in this group.
“This study suggests that body mass index is an independent risk factor for stroke,” Kurth explains.
Since BMI is something that people have control over–you can’t change your height, so lowering your weight is key to achieving a healthy BMI–preventing and controlling obesity plays a major role in reducing stroke risk, according to Kurth’s group.
Article By: Erin King