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By Clara Weisberg-Lee. Published on February 18, 2014.0
Socializing with others and regular exercise can have a positive effect on one’s wellbeing and lifespan, according to a new research.
John Cacioppo, psychology professor at the University of Chicago reported that extreme, chronic loneliness can increase an older person’s chances of premature death by 14 percent. The impact is almost equal to that of a disadvantaged socioeconomic status.
Meta-analysis of several studies published in 2010 indicated that the risk of death resulting from social isolation was twice as high as the risk of obesity-related death. The data was presented at a recent annual conference of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
The research conducted among 20,000 individuals revealed negative health effects of loneliness, including sleep problems, high blood pressure, impaired immune cells and depression. Lonely people are also more likely to have a sedentary lifestyle, which can significantly weaken their health.
Kirk Erickson, assistant professor of psychology at the University of Pittsburgh advises that gentle exercise such as walking regularly can slow down the natural aging process of an elderly person’s brain.
Study published in 2011 of 120 people aged 65 and older showed that human brain shrinks with age, but physical activity increases the volume of the hippocampus by 2 percent. This could reverse cerebral aging by one to two years as well as improve mental capacities.
“Even though the brain shrinks and declines tend to happen it does not seem to be as inevitable … and exercise seems to be a great way to take advantage of this natural capacity for brain plasticity,” Erickson said, adding that “physical activity seems to be one of the most promising approaches for positively influencing brain health in late adulthood.”