Walking the mind
Walking helps keep the body and brain young.
universal like the female menopause,” he insists. “The age-related decline in testosterone starts at about 35 or 40 but it’s very slow. And it’s very much influenced by health and body weight.”
His recent study of more than 3,000 European men, published in the New England Journal Of Medicine, found that 2% had “symptomatic testosterone deficiency”. The older you are, the more likely you are to be affected: among over-70s, only 7% will have a problem; at 40, the figure is less than 1%. And since testosterone deficiency is often the result of other health problems rather than the cause of them, obese men, for example, often find that once they lose weight, hormone levels bounce back.
“People do have pathologies that affect the testes (where men produce almost all their testosterone) or the pituitary gland (which controls its release),” Wu says, “but that can happen at any age. The low testosterone that is supposed to be purely related to old age – that is pretty rare.”
Those, such as Storey, who do need attention are prescribed some form of hormone replacement, although this is not without risk.
“Putting older people on testosterone for many years could have quite dangerous consequences,” says Wu. “Another paper in the same issue of the New England Journal Of Medicine showed that older men given testosterone have an increased incidence of serious cardiovascular events.”
Gels and injections are the commonest means of application; a single jab can last three months. Storey has patches, which he changes daily, choosing a different location each time to prevent soreness. The patches made him nauseous at first, but that was the only side-effect. His testosterone and energy levels are back to normal.
Now, he says, he still sometimes feels tired after a performance, but is no longer “destroyed”. “It’s been superb to find that this could be treated so easily.” – Guardian News & Media 2010 EVERYONE knows that walking limbers the ageing body, but did you know it keeps the mind supple as well?
Research shows that walking can actually boost the connectivity within brain circuits, which tends to diminish as the grey hairs multiply. “Patterns of connectivity decrease as we get older,” said Dr Arthur F. Kramer, who led the study team at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
“Networks aren’t as well connected to support the things we do, such as driving,” he said. “But we found as a function of aerobic fitness, the networks became more coherent.”
Kramer’s walking study, which was published in the journal Frontiers In Aging Neuroscience, tracked 70 adults from 60 to 80 years old over the course of a year. A toning, stretching, strengthening group served as a control against which to evaluate the previously sedentary walkers. “Individuals in the walking group, the aerobics training group, got by far the largest benefits,” he said, and not just physically.
“We also measured brain function,” said Kramer, whose team used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to examine brain networks. A group of 20-to 30-year-olds were tested for comparison.
“The aerobic group also improved in memory, attention and a variety of other cognitive processes,” Kramer said. “As the older people in the walking group became more fit, the coherence among different regions in the networks increased and became similar to those of the 20-yearolds,” Kramer explained.
But the results did not happen overnight. Effects in the walking group were observed only after they trained for 12 months. Sixmonth tests yielded no significant trends.
The findings come as no surprise to Dr Lynn Millar, an expert with the American College of Sports Medicine. She said while walking might seem like a simple activity, the brain is actually working to integrate information from many different sources.
“When we walk we integrate visual input, auditory input, as well as input that’s coming from joints and muscles regarding where the foot is, how much force, and things like that,” said Millar, a professor of Physical Therapy at Andrews University, in Berrien Springs, Michigan. “It’s that old concept: if you don’t use it you lose it,” she said. “In order for something to be beneficial we need to do it repetitively, and walking is a repetitive activity.”
Millar, author of Action Plan For Arthritis, said while some changes are inevitable with age, they don’t have to happen as quickly as they do in some people. “We know reaction time gets slower as we age, but activity is a big modifier,” she said, “so if we do trip we’ll be able to get that leg out and catch ourselves.”
Kramer, who also works with the military and people with disabilities, continues to work on mediating the negative effects of ageing with lifestyle choices. “We’re interested in understanding brain plasticity but we’re also interested in doing something about it,” he said. “We can wait for that wonder drug or we can do something today.” – Reuters
Research shows that walking can actually boost the connectivity within brain circuits.