Taking the stairs not only keeps your body strong and healthy, but also improves your brain's health, revealed a new study. The findings also suggested that education also has a positive effect of the brain's health.
In a study recently published in the Neurobiology of Aging, researchers led by Jason Steffener, a scientist at Concordia University's Montreal-based PERFORM Center, show that the more flights of stairs a person climbs, and the more years of school a person completes, the 'younger' their brain physically appears.
The researchers found that brain age decreases by 0.95 years for each year of education, and by 0.58 years for every daily flight of stairs climbed - i.e., the stairs between two consecutive floors in a building.
For the study, Steffener and his co-authors used magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to non-invasively examine the brains of 331 healthy adults who ranged in age from 19 to 79 years.
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 chronological aging process. Then, they compared brain volume to the participants' reported number of flights of stairs climbed, and years of schooling completed.
Results were clear: the more flights of stairs climbed, and the more years of schooling completed, the younger the brain.
"This study shows that education and physical activity affect the difference between a physiological prediction of age and chronological age, and that people can actively do something to help their brains stay young. 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," says Steffener, who is also a researcher. "This is encouraging because it demonstrates that a simple thing like climbing stairs has great potential as an intervention tool to promote brain health."