Light Physical Activity Associated With Higher Brain Volume
Physical exercise can help maintain good blood flow to the brain and may help encourage new brain cell growth. A new study suggests that even light intensity incremental physical activity is associated with larger brain volume.
For their study, researchers used data from the Framingham Heart Study, which included 2,354 participants. The participants wore accelerometers to measure total activity (steps per day). The participants were grouped into two intensity levels, light intensity and moderate to vigorous intensity. The researchers used an MRI to measure brain volume.
The researchers found that for participants who met the 2018 Physical Activity-Guidelines for Americans, incremental light intensity physical activity was associated with higher total brain volume. Each additional hour of light intensity physical activity was equivalent to approximately 1.1 years less brain aging. For participants who did not meet the 2018 Physical Activity-Guidelines for Americans, each hour of light intensity physical activity and achieving 7,500 steps per day or more was associated with 1.4 to 2.2 years less brain aging. Increasing physical activity to moderate to vigorous did not appear to further decrease brain aging.
The study was conducted by researchers from Boston University School of Medicine. It was published online ahead of print on April 19, 2019 in the journal JAMA Network Open.