Taking the stairs makes your brain younger, Concordia study finds

A team of researchers led by Concordia University professor Jason Steffener found that people with more youthful looking brains have two things in common: education and number of stairs climbed.

Researcher says taking a flight of stairs daily can shave six months off your brain age

For every daily flight of stairs climbed, the brain appeared six-months younger on MRI scans. (Timothy D. Easley/The Associated Press)

Taking the stairs may not just be good for our physical health, it might also be good for our brains. 

A team of researchers led by Concordia University professor Jason Steffener found that people with more youthful looking brains have two things in common: education and number of stairs climbed. 

Using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), the researchers measured the grey matter of 331 brains from subjects ranging in age from 19 to 79-years-old. 

Grey matter, which processes information in the brain, decreases naturally with age. The amount of grey matter we have left in our brain corresponds to what researchers call our "brain age." 

Steffener's team noticed that it appeared to decrease less rapidly for subjects who reported climbing a flight of stairs daily, giving them a younger brain age. 

For every daily flight of stairs climbed, the brain appeared six-months younger on MRI scans. 

The brain appeared a full year younger for every year of education the subject underwent. 

Steffener hopes his study's findings will help people realize that better neurological health can result from simple changes to our routines. 

"Every day we're assessed with the choice of taking the stairs, taking the elevator, taking the escalator," he said. 

"So it's something that can easily be added to our daily routine."

Steffener plans a follow-up study that will examine whether the brains of older people can improve by climbing more stairs every day.

His co-authored article, "Differences between chronological and brain age are related to education and self-reported physical activity," appears in the April issue of the journal Neurobiology of Aging.

With files from Emily Brass

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