Exercise Increases Brain Volume and May Slow Memory Decline
Gretchen Reynolds - The Washington Post
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February 8, 2024

Exercising for 25 minutes a week, or less than four minutes a day, could help to bulk up our brains and improve our ability to think as we grow older.

A new study, which involved scanning the brains of more than 10,000 healthy men and women from ages 18 to 97, found that those who walked, swam, cycled or otherwise worked out moderately for 25 minutes a week had bigger brains than those who didn’t, whatever their ages.

Bigger brains typically mean healthier brains.

The differences were most pronounced in parts of the brain involved with thinking and memory, which often shrink as we age, contributing to risks for cognitive decline and dementia.

“This is an exciting finding and gives us more fuel for the idea that being physically active can help maintain brain volume across the life span,” said David Raichlen, a professor of biological sciences and anthropology at the University of Southern California. He studies brain health but was not involved with the new study.

The results have practical implications, too, about which types of exercise seem best for our brain health and how little of that exercise we may really need.

Little exercise, big brain

“We wondered, if we chose a very low threshold of exercise what would we see?” said Cyrus A. Raji, an associate professor of radiology and neurology at Washington University in St. Louis, who led the new study.

He and his colleagues were well aware that exercise is good for brains, especially as we age. Physically active older people are far less likely than the sedentary to develop Alzheimer’s disease or other types of memory loss and cognitive decline.

But he also knew that few people in the real world exercise much. “You hear that you need 10,000 steps a day,” he said, “or 150 minutes a week. But it’s very hard to reach” those goals.

Would less — even far less — exercise still help to build healthier brains, he and his colleagues wondered?

Read the rest at The Washington Post

Related: You Need More Than Strength to Age Well - You Also Need Power (The New York Times)

Related: How Long Does It Take to Get Fit Again? (The New York Times)

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