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Take a Walk, Then Hit the Bistro

According to a June study in the Archives of Internal Medicine, the more people do socially, the better they do physically.

Exercise is good for you, but "cognitive and social activity may offer benefits as well," says lead author Aron Buchman, M.D., neurological sciences professor at Rush University Medical Center.

The 11-year study followed 906 older adults and assessed their ability to walk, grip and balance.

The results showed that the fewer social interactions subjects had, the more rapid their loss of muscle control. In fact, each one-point decrease in social activity was associated with about a 33 percent more rapid rate of motor function decline. 

The study doesn't explain why an active social life makes a difference, says geriatrician Stephanie Studenski from the Division of Geriatric Medicine at the University of Pittsburgh. "It might have been physical activity, interpersonal support or perhaps just a positive attitude toward life in general."

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