Physical activity, even at a light intensity, is associated with larger brain volume and healthy brain aging, according to a new study.
Considerable evidence has shown that engaging in regular physical activity may prevent cognitive decline and dementia. However, the specific activity levels to prevent dementia have remained unclear, researchers at the Boston University School of Medicine noted.
The 2018 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans shows that some physical activity is better than none, but at least 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity each week is recommended for substantial health benefits.
Using data from the Framingham Heart Study, researchers found that each additional hour spent in light-intensity physical activity was equivalent to approximately 1.1 years less brain aging.
“Every additional hour of light intensity 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,” said Nicole Spartano, PhD, a research assistant professor of medicine at Boston University School of Medicine. “We have really only just begun to uncover the relationship between physical activity and brain health.”
Spartano noted there’s a need to explore the impact of physical inactivity on brain 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,” she added.
The study was published in JAMA Network Open.