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15 February 2019

Media release

Exercise in the morning may be the key for optimum brain health

Older adults are being encouraged to exercise first thing in the morning if they want to maintain good brain health.

A study by the Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute in collaboration with The University of Western Australia has shown that morning exercise mitigates the impact of prolonged sitting on brain blood flow in older adults aged 55–80 years old.

The results published in the Journal of Applied Physiology suggest that morning exercise should be part of a routine to help prevent the slowing down in brain blood flow associated with ageing.

“This is the first study to measure the combined effects of an exercise bout with active breaks in sitting on cerebral blood velocity in older adults,” said the Baker Institute’s Michael Wheeler.

“Using frequent recordings over an 8-hour period, we have performed a novel analysis of the pattern of cerebral blood velocity. We demonstrated that prolonged sitting is associated with a pattern of decline across the day, however, when participants performed a morning bout of exercise with or without subsequent breaks in sitting, cerebral blood velocity improved in the afternoon several hours after exercise. Interestingly, this afternoon recovery seemed to occur more quickly when exercise was followed by subsequent breaks in sitting. Our findings provide further supportive evidence that uninterrupted sitting should be avoided, and moderate-intensity exercise should be encouraged for the daily maintenance of cerebral blood flow.”

Head of Physical Activity at the Baker Institute, Professor David Dunstan said with the prevalence of stroke and dementia increasing due to population ageing these results were extremely important.

“Ageing is also associated with an increased prevalence of various risk factors for cerebrovascular disease such as physical inactivity, obesity, high blood pressure, and heart disease. Therefore, strategies to maintain cerebrovascular health among older adults with cardiovascular risk factors are a public health priority,” said Professor Dunstan.

“Over a whole waking day, older adults spend about 5% of time engaged in exercise of moderate-to-vigorous intensity, but spend a majority of time in sedentary behaviour which carries an increased risk for all-cause mortality. This study adds to the evidence suggesting that sedentary behaviours such as prolonged sitting may be negatively associated with aspects of brain health.”

For further information or to organise interviews please contact:

Tracey Ellis
03 8532 1514
M: 0433 781 972
E: tracey.ellis@baker.edu.au

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