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Graz researchers: Fitness also keeps the brain fit

Photo: APA (dpa) © Photo: APA (dpa)

Since the year 1991, within the context of the "Austrian Stroke Prevention Study," scientists in Graz have been investigating the question of how one can prevent heart attacks from taking place. Recently, a group of researchers led by Helena Schmidt of the Institute for Molecular Biology and Biochemistry has been reviewing and reevaluating these cohort studies. The researchers presented their results in the current online issue of the scientific magazine "Neurology".

On balance, the data of a total of 877 men and women in Graz with an average age of 65 was examined. The results show that older people with a high level of physical fitness have a “younger” brain compared to those participants who are not quite as fit.”The cognitive functions of the brain of those participants showing the highest fitness level in the context of the study are in a state comparable to people up to seven years younger,” Schmidt stated. Reduced fitness also correspondingly reduced the performance of the brain. “This is good proof of the causality between the two”, Schmidt added. Moreover, the positive effects of fitness on the cognitive functions of the brain are perceptible “regardless of a person’s age”.

The high level of fitness is due to “life-long exercise as well as genetic factors“, the author of the study concluded. It still needs to be determined which precise mechanisms of fitness specifically influence the cognitive abilities of people when they get old. The authors assume that the cortical and sub-cortical structures are protected better thanks to the maximum intake of oxygen. 

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