Modest brain test benefit seen with brisk walking

CHICAGO (AP) -- A study is being billed as the first rigorous test of exercise on the aging brain.

The study found that brisk walking led to slight improvements on mental tests for older people with memory problems.

The results from the small Australian study were only modest. But they back up observational studies showing potential mental benefits from physical activity.

Still, the study authors caution that the results don't prove that exercise will produce meaningful improvement in brain function or memory. They also said the results should not be used to imply that exercise reduces the risk of dementia or Alzheimer's.

Study participants included 85 Australian adults aged 50 and older assigned to do at least 2 and a-half hours of weekly physical activity, mainly brisk walking, for six months. They recorded their exercise in diaries and also got phone calls and newsletters encouraging them to stick with it.

Results appear in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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