Moving over from the aspiration to keep the body young, researchers have now focused on keeping the brain younger and their findings showed that taking the stairs improves your brain’s health and that school educations has an immense positive effect on your brain.
Researchers led by Jason Steffener, a scientist at Concordia University’s Montreal-based PERFORM Centre, found that the more flights of stairs a person climbs, and the more years of school a person completes, the “younger” their brain is.
They found that brain age decreases by 0.95 years for each year of education at school, and by 0.58 years for every daily flight of stairs climbed say between two consecutive floors in a building.
“There already exist many ‘Take the stairs’ campaigns in office environments and public transportation centres,” said Steffener. “This study shows that these campaigns should also be expanded for older adults, so that they can work to keep their brains young.”
For the study, the researchers used magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) on the brains of 331 healthy adults who ranged in age from 19 to 79.
They measured the volume of grey matter found in participants’ brains because its decline, caused by neural shrinkage and neuronal loss, is a very visible part of the aging process. Then, they compared brain volume to the reported number of flights of stairs they climbed, and years of schooling completed. The results showed that the more flights of stairs climbed, and the more years of schooling completed, the younger the brain is.
“In comparison to many other forms of physical activity, taking the stairs is something most older adults can and already do at least once a day, unlike vigorous forms of physical activity,” said Steffener, recommending the two activities as great potential intervention tools to promote brain health.
“This is encouraging because it demonstrates that a simple thing like climbing stairs has great potential as an intervention tool to promote brain health,” he said.
The study has been published in the journal Neurobiology of Aging.