Taking the stairs is a surefire way to give your butt a lift, but did you know it can also boost your brain?! Yep, not only is forgoing the elevator a great thing to do for your physical health, it’s also good for your brain’s health, and can actually slow down your brain’s aging, according to new research. (Makes sense, considering recent research showed a connection between stronger legs and a healthy brain.)
In a study recently published in the journal Neurobiology of Aging, researchers used magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to examine the volume of grey matter in the brains of 331 healthy adults ranging in age from 19 to 79 and determine a physiologically based age estimate. They then compared brain volume to the participants’ reported number of flights of stairs climbed and found that the more flights of stairs a person climbs, the “younger” their brain’s age will be.
And keeping your brain young doesn’t even take all that much extra effort: Climbing just one additional flight of stairs each day for a year can shave 0.58 years off your brain age. (Psst: You can also use your stairs to create a fat-burning, body-toning workout.)Not only is brain age an important marker of our brain’s health, but a younger brain is also thought to have profound effects on delaying the onset of age-related neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease. (Start using these tricks to sharpen your brain and ward off disease.)
The researchers were surprised to find that out of nine physical activities that were looked at, stair climbing was the only one that proved significant, explains lead study author Jason Steffener, Ph.D., a research scientist at Concordia University’s PERFORM Centre in Montréal. Walking/hiking, jogging, running, bicycling aerobic exercise, lap swimming, tennis/squash/racquetball, and low-intensity exercise all proved to have no effect on brain aging, according to the researchers.
“Many people are already climbing the stairs at least once per day; our results suggest that climbing more flights of stairs per day may offer even greater benefit,” the study explains. This study proves that people can actively do something to help their brains stay young, Steffener adds.
So if you’re already in the habit of taking the stairs (or just so happen live in a walk-up), keep up the good work! And if you’re not, considering adding in just one more flight each day—or more, the sky’s the limit! Your brain will thank you down the line—and your legs and butt certainly will too.
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