April 5, 2016, 4:29 p.m.View more articles
Clinton Wright and his colleagues at the University of Miami in Florida followed 876 people - with an average age of 71 - for five years.
At the start of the study, each participant underwent memory and cognition tests, and had their brain assessed with an MRI scan. Each person was asked how much exercise they had done recently, ranging from “no exercise” to “heavy exercise”.
After five years the volunteers returned to repeat the tests. Their scores correlated with their level of activity, with those who reported no or low levels of exercise scoring lower in all tests. The 10 per cent of people who said they had been engaged in moderate-to-heavy exercise not only averaged higher scores in the first round, but showed less of a decline five years later.
The scientists then examined the results from people who began the study with no signs of memory loss. They found that by the end of the five-year study, those who did not exercise regularly had brains that looked approximately 10 years older than those who did moderate or heavy exercise.
These results suggest that physical activity can delay memory loss if people begin exercising before the onset of symptoms, however once damage has occurred it is impossible to reverse. The data suggests that physical activity is beneficial for the brain because it lowers blood pressure, improves vascular health and encourages blood flow to the brain.
Memories are formed as connections are made in the brain. Learn more with Twig film Neurons as Cells.