It’s the dream of everyone to be strong and healthy at old age, and to also have good memory.
A study carried out by researchers from UCLA, California, USA has found that regular physical activity in older adults could increase brain size and decrease the risk of cognitive decline.
For the study, the team used a previous research (the landmark Framingham Heart Study) to look at an association between exercise, brain volume and the risk of developing dementia. The team looked at the physical activity levels from the original group of participants in the Framingham Heart Study as well as their offspring who were age 60 or over.
The team looked at an association between physical activity and the risk of developing all types of dementia in 3700 participants from both groups, as well as an association between physical activity and total brain volume and hippocampal volume, as measured by brain MRI scans, from a further 2063 participants from the offspring group only.
The participants, who did not suffer from dementia at the start of the study, were followed for more than a decade.
The results showed that there was an association between a low-level of physical activity and a higher risk for dementia in older individuals, and that physical activity had a positive effect on brain volume, in particular on the size of the hippocampus, the area of the brain involved in short-term memory.
The researchers also found that the positive effects of exercise were also strongest in people age 75 and older. The findings showed that physical activity in old age could reduce the risk of dementia and lead to higher brain volumes, although the researchers acknowledged that more research needs to be done to understand the intensity and duration of physical activity.