Exercise Prevents Brain Shrinkage, Study Finds

Lower risk of heart disease. Stronger bones and muscles. Weight loss.

Exercise has many benefits, including a new one: less brain shrinkage.

Researchers from Scotland say exercising regularly may help protect against brain shrinkage, which may lead to memory and thinking problems, according to a news release from the American Academy of Neurology. The study was published in the academy’s medical journal Neurology.

In fact, exercise trumped mental and socially stimulating activities when it comes to protecting against brain shrinkage, researchers say.

“People in their seventies who participated in more physical exercise, including walking several times a week, had less brain shrinkage and other signs of aging in the brain than those who were less physically active,” said study author Alan J. Gow, with the University of Edinburgh in Scotland. “On the other hand, our study showed no real benefit to participating in mentally and socially stimulating activities on brain size, as seen on MRI scans, over the three-year time frame.”

For the study, researchers followed more than 600 people born in 1936. Using MRI scans and data on exercise routines as well as participation in social and mentally stimulating activities, researchers found that after three years “people who participated in more physical activity experienced less brain shrinkage than those who exercised minimally,” the release states.

“Our results show that regularly exercising in old age is potentially important to protecting the brain as we age,” Gow said.

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