Walk­ing the mind

Walk­ing helps keep the body and brain young.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - HEALTH - by dORene InTeRnIcOlA

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.

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