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Increased Physical Activity May Reduce Risk of Alzheimer’s Disease

Alzheimer’s disease already affects millions of Americans, and as the population ages, that number is only expected to go up. A recent study suggests that practically any type of aerobic physical activity may improve brain structure and reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.


Participants in the study included 876 people with an average age of 78. All of them took part in the 30-year Cardiovascular Health Study, which took place in four research sites across the US. The researchers measured brain volume using MRI scans and advanced computer algorithms and they recorded physical activity via standardized questionnaires.


The researchers found that increased physical activity — ranging from gardening to dancing to riding an exercise bike — was correlated with larger brain volumes in the frontal, temporal, and parietal lobes, including the hippocampus. Reduced volume in the hippocampus has been associated with increased risk of memory loss and Alzheimer’s disease. Overall, increased physical activity was associated with a 50% reduced risk of Alzheimer’s disease.


25% of the participants had mild cognitive impairment, and the researchers found that increasing physical activity had a positive effect on their brain volume as well.


Researchers from UCLA Medical Center and the University of Pittsburgh conducted the study. It was published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease online ahead of print on March 11, 2016.


Getting more exercise isn’t just great for your brain. Previous clinical studies suggest that even moderate exercise can reduce your risk of dying prematurely, help with blood sugar control, reduce body weight, improve heart health and improve respiratory health.

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