Taking the stairs keeps your brain younger

Yet another reason to skip the escalator/elevator and hoof it instead.

It should come as no surprise that choosing the stairs over an electronic convenience is generally better for the body and uses less power, but a new study finds that it does good things for the brain as well.

In the study, led by Jason Steffener from Concordia University's Montreal-based PERFORM Centre, researchers found that the more flights of stairs a person climbs each day, the more physically robust their brain appears to be. They also looked at years of education completed and found that it plays a role in a youthful brain too.

The researchers conclude that brain age decreases by 0.58 years for every daily flight of stairs climbed and 0.95 years for each year of education.

"There already exist many 'Take the stairs' campaigns in office environments and public transportation centers," says Steffener. "This study shows that these campaigns should also be expanded for older adults, so that they can work to keep their brains young."

The study included 331 healthy adults between the ages of 19 to 79. The researchers used magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to measure the volume of grey matter, because its decline is caused by neural shrinkage and neuronal loss and is a good biomarker for brain health and age.

They then crunched the numbers after comparing brain volume to the participants' daily stair climbing and years of schooling completed to conclude the benefits of both.

"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," he adds. "This is encouraging because it demonstrates that a simple thing like climbing stairs has great potential as an intervention tool to promote brain health."

So there you have it. And while you can’t go back in time and add years of school to your history, you can, if your body is able, propel yourself up the and down the stairs using leg power instead of electricity.

And on that note, be right back ... have to figure out how many flights I need to climb a day to get my teenage brain back.

Tags: Health | Stairs

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