Exercise May Help Keep Seniors Moving Longer Despite Old Age Brain Decline Older people who are physically active may be protecting themselves from the effects of small areas of brain damage that can affect their movement abilities, according to a study published in Neurologyå¨, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology. Many older people have small areas of damage in their brains seen on magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) as white matter hyperintensities.åÊ Higher levels of this damage have been linked to more problems with movement, such as difficulty walking. But this new study found that people who were the most physically active did not have a drop-off in their movement abilities, even when they had high levels of brain damage. ÛÏThese results underscore the importance of efforts to encourage a more active lifestyle in older people to prevent movement problems, which is a major public health challenge,Û said study author Debra A. Fleischman, PhD, of Rush University Medical Center in Chicago. ÛÏPhysical activity may create a Û÷reserveÛª that protects motor abilities against the effects of age-related brain damage.Û The study involved 167 people with an average age of 80. The participants wore movement monitors on their wrists for up to 11 days to measure both exercise and non-exercise activity. They also took 11 tests of their movement abilities. MRI scans were used to determine the volume of white matter hyperintensities in the brain. Fleischman noted that the study does not determine whether physical activity causes people to preserve their movement abilities; it only shows the association.