Taking the stairs and education improves mental health, according to a study published in the journal Neurobiology of Aging. The study, led by Jason Steffener, details each year of education and each daily flight of stairs climbed decreased the brain age up to 0.95 years and 0.58 years, respectively.
Steffener, a scientist at Concordia University’s Montreal-based PERFORM Centre, adds that the brains of people who did these activities look physically younger. The study involved using a magnetic resonance imaging or MRI to analyse the brains of 331 healthy adults with ages 19 to 79 years.
The research team measured the participants’ grey matter volume in the brain. They explain that grey matter decline due to neuronal loss and neural shrinkage and is a good marker of the chronological aging process.
They calculated the number of flights of stairs climbed and years of education of every person and compared this with the grey matter volume. They found that the more years of education completed and the more stairs climbed, the younger the participant’s brain appeared.
The study revealed the benefits of taking the stairs, aside from its known positive health effects. Additionally, this reinforces other campaigns that shows the good consequences of taking the stairs.
“There already exist many ‘Take the stairs’ campaigns in office environments and public transportation centres,” adds Steffener. “This study shows that these campaigns should also be expanded for older adults, so that they can work to keep their brains young.”
This is especially helpful for older people who can no longer exercise or lead a very active lifestyle to stay young. Now, they can stay healthier and keep their brains younger without having to resort to vigorous physical activity.
“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,” concludes Steffener, “This is encouraging because it demonstrates that a simple thing like climbing stairs has great potential as an intervention tool to promote brain health.”