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For a Younger Brain, Stay in School and Take the Stairs

For a Younger Brain, Stay in School and Take the Stairs

Trekking up three flights of stairs to your English IV class will have a doubly positive impact on your brain, according to a new study at Concordia University.

The findings show that the more flights of stairs a person climbs, and the more years of school a person completes, the “younger” their brain physically appears. And if we continue to learn and to take the stairs, our brains will reap the benefits throughout our entire lives.

The researchers found that brain age decreases by 0.95 years for each year of education, and by 0.58 years for every daily flight of stairs climbed (the stairs between two consecutive floors in a building).

“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,” said study leader Dr. Jason Steffener, a scientist at Concordia University’s Montreal-based PERFORM Centre.

“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. This is encouraging because it demonstrates that a simple thing like climbing stairs has great potential as an intervention tool to promote brain health,” said Steffener, who is also a researcher at the Institut universitaire de gériatrie de Montréal.

For the study, Steffener and his co-authors used magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to non-invasively look at the brains of 331 healthy young and older adults, ranging in age from 19 to 79.

The researchers measured the volume of grey matter found in the subjects’ brains because its reduction, caused by neural shrinkage and neuronal loss, is a very visible part of the chronological aging process. Finally, they compared brain volume to the participants’ reported number of flights of stairs climbed, and years of schooling completed.

The findings were clear: the more flights of stairs climbed, and the more years of schooling completed, the younger the brain. The results were consistent regardless of age, revealing that these practices continue to make a difference, even in older age.

“There already exist many ‘Take the stairs’ campaigns in office environments and public transportation centres,” says Steffener. “This study shows that these campaigns should also be expanded for older adults, so that they can work to keep their brains young.”

The findings are published in the journal Neurobiology of Aging.

Source: Concordia University

For a Younger Brain, Stay in School and Take the Stairs

Traci Pedersen

Traci Pedersen is a professional writer with over a decade of experience. Her work consists of writing for both print and online publishers in a variety of genres including science chapter books, college and career articles, and elementary school curriculum.

APA Reference
Pedersen, T. (2018). For a Younger Brain, Stay in School and Take the Stairs. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 3, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Aug 2018 (Originally: 10 Mar 2016)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Aug 2018
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