Exercise May Beat Mental Activity in Preserving Cognition

More evidence has linked exercise with a positive effect on the brain. A new study finds that older adults who reported being the most physically active had less brain atrophy, higher volumes of gray matter, and less damage to white matter compared with their more sedentary counterparts.

Not only was the sample size, at almost 700 participants, much larger than those of other studies looking at the effect of physical activity on the brain, but this study is the first to look in detail at the effect of exercise on white matter, the brain’s “wiring,” .lead author Alan J. Gow, PhD, senior research fellow, Center for Cognitive Aging and Cognitive Epidemiology, University of Edinburgh, United Kingdom, told Medscape Medical News.

“That’s probably one of the unique aspects of the study, the focus on the wiring, as well as on the volumes and shrinkage of actual gray matter.”

However, the researchers found no association between social and mentally stimulating leisure activities and these brain changes.

The study is published in the October 23 issue of Neurology.

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