Keeping active can maintain sense of smell

Keeping active in later life can help to maintain your sense of smell, according to a study published by researchers from the University of Cagliari, Italy earlier this year.

Reduced sense of smell is a major issue for a lot of older people. Statistics indicate that more than 50% of individuals aged between 65 and 80 have a reduced sensitivity, while for those over 80 the percentage is even higher. This can have far reaching impacts on quality of life from poor nutrition to social isolation.

We can help our sense of smell

Instead of accepting that our sense of smell will deteriorate with age, this research explored factors which could help us to keep our noses in good shape. They recruited a group of 122 healthy, older volunteers and looked at the link between their sense of smell and other lifestyle factors.

The group were split into Active and Inactive individuals based on their daily activities, both exercise and non-exercise related and a range of olfactory tests were carried out. Those classed as active were much more likely to have a normal sense of smell than those who were less active.

Increase in activity increases performance

There was also a relationship between the number of hours per week dedicated to exercise and olfactory score. As exercise levels went up, performance in the smell tests increased. As we know, regular exercise is important for maintaining good physical and mental health as we get older, the study says it has a similar positive influence on our sense of smell.

What if you can’t do much physical exercise due to other health conditions?

Do you just have toaccept that your sense of smell won’t be as good? There is positive news for you too. Non-exercise physical activity, and social and cognitive activities were also shown to help. This could include anything from a gentle walk round the local park, to doing puzzles and crosswords, or meeting up with your friends for a chat and a coffee.

Staying active in this way slows down the ageing process and maintains olfactory memory. This means that you’ll be better able to put names to aromas and describe what you can smell. Overall, keeping active and engaged in later life provides all round health benefits.

This work was published in the Open Access journal Frontiers in Ageing Neuroscience.

September 07, 2021

Posted in Research.