Canadian researchers have found that not only can staying on at school help to keep your brain young, but taking the stairs daily also helps to improve brain health.
In the study, carried out by a team from Concordia University's Montreal-based PERFORM Centre, researchers examined the brains of 331 healthy adults aged 19 to 79 using MRI scans.
The scans measured the volume of grey matter in the brains -- which declines as we age -- which researchers then compared to the participants' reports of how many flights of stairs they climbed, and how many years in education they had completed.
The results showed that the more stairs climbed and the more years at school, the younger the brain, with the age of the brain younger by nearly a full year (0.95 years) for every year spent in education, and by over half a year (0.58 years) for every flight of stairs climbed each day -- defined in the study as stairs between two consecutive floors in a building.
Commenting on the results the study's lead author Jason Steffener said, "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," he added, "This is encouraging because it demonstrates that a simple thing like climbing stairs has great potential as an intervention tool to promote brain health."
The findings are published in the journal Neurobiology of Aging.
Previous studies have also found that exercise can help keep the brain healthy.
Although potentially more intense than climbing a flight of stairs, a 2015 study also found that lifting weights can help to keep the brain healthy, particularly in women, with the study showing that taking part in the activity just twice a week can benefit white matter -- the part of the brain that can develop lesions as we age, affecting thinking and memory skills.
And a ten-year study of identical female twins by King's College London found that leg power, boosted by exercises such as running, walking, helped to protect the brain against cognitive aging and cerebral changes.ALSO ON HUFFPOST:
If you're prone to being obese, spending just one hour going for a brisk walk may reduce your genetic influence by half. That's the finding from a Harvard School of Public Health Study that was recently presented at the American Heart Association's Epidemiology and Prevention/Nutrition, Physical Activity and Metabolism 2012 Scientific Sessions. "In our study, a brisk one-hour daily walk reduced the genetic influence towards obesity, measured by differences in BMI by half," study researcher Qibin Qi, Ph.D. said in a statement. "On the other hand, a sedentary lifestyle marked by watching television four hours a day increased the genetic influence by 50 percent." Not only is it helpful to get moving from behind your desk -- it might be harmful to stay slumped over your computer instead.
Research consistently shows that a simple walking plan can help reduce LDL cholesterol -- the damaging kind, associated with heart disease -- and increase HDL cholesterol, which is associated with heart health. One study in middle aged men found that walking enough to burn 300 calories per day was associated with a significant reduction in the total cholesterol/HDL ratio, which is an indication of better cardiovascular function. The walking plan was also effective in lowering damaging triglycerides.
Even if you aren't genetically predisposed to obesity, you can still benefit from the weight regulating properties of walking. Walking at least 10,000 steps a day was associated with lower body fat percentage and lower overall weight, according to a recent Canadian study of women, ages 50 to 70 years. In the study of 57 women, those who walked more than 10,000 steps were the only group to have a normal BMI of an average 25. Those who walked fewer than 7,500 steps and those who walked between 7,500 and 10,000 steps were, on average, overweight. But while walking may have an effect on overall body mas, if it's muscle tone, balance or agility you're after, the study found that even 10,000 steps wasn't sufficient.
People with fatigue who also lead sedentary lifestyles reported getting a 20 percent energy boost and a 65 percent reduction in fatigue after following a low-intensity exercise program that involved walking, according to a 2008 University of Georgia study. And more, recently, walking was shown to help mitigate the profound fatigue felt by those who were recovering from serious illness, reported HuffPost's Amanda L. Chan: The new research shows that an activity as simple as walking could help to lessen this fatigue. The study, published in the Journal of the American College of Surgeons included 102 people who had just had surgery done for their pancreatic or periampullary cancers. Eighty-five percent of them reported having fatigue at a moderate to severe level.
The benefits of walking extend beyond the physical. Just 30 minutes of strolling a day has been associated with mood improvement among depressed patients. In fact, thanks to the endorphins released during exercise, the study -- published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine -- revealed that walking worked faster than antidepressants.