Regular physical activity strengthens brain health. Areas of the brain that are important for memory and learning benefit, among other things. Apparently, relatively few steps a day are enough to benefit from positive effects on the brain.
A recent study involving experts from Washington University in St. Louis examined the connections between moderate to vigorous physical activity and brain volume. The results are published in the “Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease”.
Brain scans of 10,125 participants were examined
The research involved a total of 10,125 healthy participants who underwent MRI scans to examine the brain. Three deep learning models were then used to evaluate the scans.
Positive effects on the brain
It was found that moderate to vigorous physical activity that increases breathing and heart rate for at least ten minutes continuously is associated with strengthening the brain in certain key areas.
Participants who regularly exercised had larger brain volume, which particularly included the so-called gray matter, the team reports. This is known to be helpful in processing information.
In addition, the white matter and the hippocampus also benefited, the researchers continued. The white matter connects different regions of the brain, whereas the hippocampus is particularly important for memory.
Just 4,000 steps are enough
“Our research supports previous studies showing that physical activity is good for the brain. Exercise not only reduces the risk of dementia, but also helps maintain the size of the brain, which is crucial in old age,” reports study author Dr. Cyrus A. Raji in a press release.
Even a moderate level of physical activity, such as taking 4,000 steps a day, can have a positive effect on the brain, adds study author Dr. David Merrill added.
Neuroprotective benefits from regular exercise
“Our research links regular physical activity to larger brain volume, suggesting neuroprotective benefits. This large sample study advances our understanding of lifestyle factors in brain health and dementia prevention,” adds study author Dr. Somayeh Meysami.
A previous study from 2020 found that there are around a dozen modifiable risk factors that increase the risk of Alzheimer’s. One of these risk factors is physical activity.
Reducing the risk of Alzheimer’s disease
The results show not only the impact of exercise on brain health, but also the benefit of non-drug modifiable factors in reducing the risk of developing Alzheimer’s.
“Using comprehensive imaging scans, our study highlights the interconnected synergy between the body and the brain. “It reflects the knowledge of previous generations and shows that increased physical activity is a predictor of a healthier aging brain,” emphasizes study author Dr. Rajpaul Attariwala. (as)