In a new study, researchers found that older people who regularly walk, garden, swim or dance may have bigger brains than their inactive peers.
The effect of exercise was equal to four fewer years of brain aging.
The research was conducted by a team at Columbia University.
Recent studies have shown that as people age, physical activity may reduce the risk of cognitive decline and dementia.
The study involved 1,557 people with an average age of 75. None had dementia, but 296 people had mild cognitive impairment and 28% had the APOE gene that is linked to a greater risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
Participants were given physical exams, thinking and memory tests, and were asked about their daily tasks and other physical activities.
The researchers then calculated how much time and energy each person spent on those tasks and activities.
They also used magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans to measure the brains of people with a range of activity levels, including those who were inactive to those who were very active.
The scans showed less active people had smaller brain volume.
The average brain size for those who were inactive was 871 cubic centimeters compared to 883 cubic centimeters for those who were most active, a difference of 12 cubic centimeters, or 1.4%, or the equivalent of nearly four years of brain aging.
The results remained similar even after excluding people who had mild cognitive impairment.
The results add to the evidence that more physical activity is linked to larger brain volume in older people.
It also builds on evidence that moving your body more often throughout one’s life may protect against loss of brain volume.
The lead author of the study is Yian Gu, Ph.D. from Columbia University in New York and a member of the American Academy of Neurology.
The study was presented at the American Academy of Neurology’s 72nd Annual Meeting.
Copyright © 2020 Knowridge Science Report. All rights reserved.