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Major New Report Establishes Effective Methods of Enhancing and Preserving Brain Power as We Age
Date:6/23/2009

rchers assessed their physical activity by asking the women how many city blocks they walked per day and how many flights of stairs they climbed daily. The women also responded to a questionnaire detailing their participation in 33 different physical activities. Looking at the cognitive function of these women 6 to 8 years later, the researchers found that the most active women had a 30 percent reduced risk of cognitive decline. Interestingly, walking distance was associated with cognition, but walking speed was not. It seems that even moderate levels of physical activity can serve to limit declines in cognition in older adults.

Social engagement and maintaining a positive attitude are also powerful tools in deterring the arrival of dementia. Individuals who are optimistic, agreeable, open to experience, conscientious, positively motivated and goal-directed are more likely to experience successful aging. Animal research supports these findings. These studies show that exposing animals to enriched or complex environments (usually including running wheels, a multitude of toys and objects to climb, and animal companions) yields several physiological benefits, including neuronal changes in the brain.

The science in this report also debunks the old saw: "Old dogs can't learn new tricks." While older adults generally learn new pursuits more slowly than younger people do, they nevertheless can improve their cognitive performance by keeping their minds and bodies in shape.

This report was authored by Christopher Hertzog, Georgia Institute of Technology; Arthur F. Kramer, University of Illinois - Urbana-Champaign; Robert S. Wilson, Rush University Medical Center; and Ulman Lindenberger, Max Planck Institute for Human Development, Berlin

Arthur F. Kramer and Robert S. Wilson will discuss these and other findings at a press conference on June 24.

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SOURCE Association for Psychological Science
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