Regular physical activity for older adults could lead to higher brain volumes and help stave off the risk of developing dementia, according to a new study from researchers at the University of California Los Angeles.

Researchers used data from the landmark Framingham Heart study which started in 1948 as a way to investigate factors leading to cardiovascular disease, but also observed dementia and other conditions.

The team evaluated the association between physical activity and risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s for 3,700 participants that included an older community-based cohort from the Framingham study and their offspring who were aged 60 and above.  The scientists followed the original cohort for more than 10 years to examine the link between exercise and the risk for dementia and MRI brain markers of dementia.

They looked at physical activity levels of the offspring cohort and investigated the association between brain MRI’s and exercise in 2,000 of the participants.

Physical activity showed to have the strongest protective effects against dementia for those participants that were 75 and older.

Brain size, specifically the hippocampus, which plays a strong role in short-term memory, was affected positively by regular physical activity, the researchers found.

The authors say that the results imply it’s never too late to get up and move in order to help brain health and lower the risk of developing dementia.

The findings were published in Journals of Gerontology Series A: Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences.

 

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