Light physical activity reduces brain aging

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Incremental physical activity, even at light intensity, is associated with larger brain volume and healthy brain aging.

Considerable evidence suggests that engaging in may prevent cognitive decline and dementia. Active individuals have lower metabolic and vascular risk factors and these risk factors may explain their propensity for healthy brain aging. However, the specific activity levels optimal for dementia prevention have remained unclear.

The new 2018 Physical Activity-Guidelines for Americans suggest that some physical activity is better than none, but achieving greater than 150 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous (MV) physical activity per week is recommended for substantial health benefits.

Using data from the Framingham Heart Study, the researchers found that for each additional hour spent in light-intensity physical activity was equivalent to approximately 1.1 years less brain aging.

According to the researchers, these results suggest that the threshold of the favorable association for physical activity with brain aging may be at a lower, more achievable level of intensity or volume.

"Every additional hour of physical activity was associated with higher brain volumes, even among individuals not meeting current Physical Activity-Guidelines. These data are consistent with the notion that potential benefits of physical activity on brain aging may accrue at a lower, more achievable level of intensity or volume," explained Nicole Spartano, Ph.D., research assistant professor of medicine at Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM).

"We have really only just begun to uncover the relationship between and brain health." Spartano emphasizes the need to explore the impact of physical inactivity on aging in different race, ethnic, and socio-economic groups. She is leading a team effort to investigate these patterns at multiple sites all over the country. "We couldn't do this research without the commitment of the Framingham Heart Study participants who have given so much to the medical community over the years. Our research also hinges on the multi-disciplinary team of investigators at Boston University and external collaborators." She also acknowledges the importance of funding for research in this area and is grateful for support from the National Institute on Aging, American Heart Association, and Alzheimer's Association.

These finding appear online in JAMA Network Open.


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Journal information: JAMA Network Open

Citation: Light physical activity reduces brain aging (2019, April 19) retrieved 27 May 2019 from https://medicalxpress.com/news/2019-04-physical-brain-aging.html
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Apr 21, 2019
We must be careful of our conclusion of what exactly this association means; does it mean exercise causes a lower rate of brain decline or does it mean people that have a lower rate of brain decline are, unsurprisingly, on average more intelligence and thus are more likely to choose to do more exercise for health reasons? -if the latter then doing some exercise may not help with brain decline DESPITE that real association existing. In other words, a lower rate of brain decline may be the cause rather than the effect of the greater amount of exercise done.

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