Posted on Dec 28, 2023, 7 p.m.
An international study published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) that included a team from the Pacific Neuroscience Institute’s Brain Health Center at Providence Saint John’s Health Center has revealed a link between regular exercise and better brain health; showing that being physically active is related to the increased size of brain areas that are important for learning and memory.
This study involved analyzing the MRI brain scans from 10,125 people and found that those who regularly engaged in physical activity like sports, walking, or running had larger brain volumes in key regions/areas. The key areas included gray matter which helps with processing information, white matter which connects different brain regions, and the hippocampus which is important for memory, among other areas.
This study builds upon previous work from this group that linked caloric burn from leisure activities to improved brain structure and another Lancet Study that was published in 2020 that identified around a dozen modifiable risk factors that increase the risk for AD.
Findings from this current study highlight a simple way to keep our brains healthy: stay active. You don’t need fancy equipment or a gym membership to be active, you just need to get up and move. This could be taking a daily walk, dancing, playing your favorite sport, or riding a bike. Whatever you choose, engaging in regular physical activity can have lasting beneficial effects on brain health that make the effort well worth it.
"Our research supports earlier studies that show being physically active is good for your brain. Exercise not only lowers the risk of dementia but also helps in maintaining brain size, which is crucial as we age,” said Cyrus A. Raji, M.D., who is the lead researcher.
"We found that even moderate levels of physical activity, such as taking fewer than 4,000 steps a day, can have a positive effect on brain health. This is much less than the often-suggested 10,000 steps, making it a more achievable goal for many people,” noted David Merrill, M.D., who is the study co-author and director of the PBHC.
“Our research links regular physical activity to larger brain volumes, suggesting neuroprotective benefits. This large sample study furthers our understanding of lifestyle factors in brain health and dementia prevention,” said study co-author Somayeh Meysami, M.D., assistant professor of neurosciences at Saint John’s Cancer Institute and the Pacific Brain Health Center.
"This study demonstrates the influence of exercise on brain health imaging and when added to other studies on the role of diet, stress reduction and social connection offer the proven benefits of drug-free modifiable factors in substantially reducing Alzheimer's disease," said George Perry, Editor-in-Chief of Journal of Alzheimer's Disease.
As with anything you read on the internet, this article should not be construed as medical advice; please talk to your doctor or primary care provider before changing your wellness routine. This article is not intended to provide a medical diagnosis, recommendation, treatment, or endorsement. These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.
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