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CBS News Miami: Get Moving, Any Physical Activity Improves Brain Function, Study Found

From CBS News Miami: Get moving. Any exercise, even as little as once a month, can help preserve mental function and memory. A major study in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery, and Psychiatry showed a link between exercise and lower risks of dementia and cognitive decline. While even a little exercise can help, people who exercised regularly throughout adulthood saw the most benefit. The study tracked the physical activity patterns of nearly 1,500 people over the course of 30 years in adulthood. At age 69, the participants were tested on their cognitive state, verbal memory and processing speed. While lifelong physical activity was associated with the best cognitive results later in life, being active at any time to any extent was associated with higher cognition, the study found. Even people who became active in their 50s or 60s achieved better cognitive scores when they reached 70 years old, said study author Dr. Sarah-Naomi James, a research fellow at MRC Unit for Lifelong Health and Ageing at University College London. A surprisingly small amount of activity – as little as once a month – at any time across adulthood was helpful, she added. “It seems clear from this study and others that small doses of exercise across the lifespan and starting young is very beneficial to long term health,” said Dr. William Roberts, professor of family medicine and community health at the University of Minnesota Medical School, via email. Roberts was not involved in the research. On a societal level, the findings show a need for more access to education that encourages skills and motivation for physical activity at any age, according to the study. How to get active For people who have been active regularly, the results should be encouraging and suggest that their investment can pay off, Roberts said. “For people who have never been physically active, or have gone through a period of inactivity, start!” James said via email. If you are not exactly an athlete who loves to break a sweat, there are still ways to work some activity into your life. To build a habit that sticks, it is important to set a goal, make a specific plan, find a way to make it fun, stay flexible and get social support, said behavioral scientist Katy Milkman, author of “How to Change: The Science of Getting from Where You Are to Where You Want to Be”. Milkman is the James G. Dinan Professor at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. You can start slow, said Dana Santas, CNN fitness contributor and mind-body coach for professional athletes. “Fitting in 10 minutes of exercise every day is so much easier than people think. Consider how fast 10 minutes goes by when you’re mindlessly scrolling social media or watching your favorite TV show,” said Santas. “It’s not a big-time investment, but it can deliver big health benefits.” Yoga is a great way to be active while relieving stress – and is easily accessible for all levels online, she said. Read more at CBS News Miami.