The risk of Alzheimer's disease can be reduced by 50% by engaging in simple physical activities like walking, gardening and dancing. These activities were found to improve brain volume.
This research, conducted by investigators at UCLA Medical Center and the University of Pittsburgh, is the first to show that virtually any type of aerobic physical activity can improve brain structure and reduce Alzheimer's risk.
The researchers studied a long-term cohort of patients in the 30-year Cardiovascular Health Study, 876 in all, across four research sites in the United States. These participants had longitudinal memory follow-up, which also included standard questionnaires about their physical activity habits.
Individuals experiencing this brain benefit from increasing their physical activity experienced a 50 percent reduction in their risk of Alzheimer's dementia. Of the roughly 25 percent of the sample who had mild cognitive impairment associated with Alzheimer's, increasing physical activity also benefited their brain volumes.
Lead author Dr. Cyrus A. Raji said that this is the first study to correlate the predictive benefit of different kinds of physical activity with the reduction of Alzheimer's risk through specific relationships with better brain volume in such a large sample.
George Perry, Editor in Chief of Journal of Alzheimer's Disease, added, "Raji et al present a landmark study that links exercise to increases in grey matter and opens the field of lifestyle intervention to objective biological measurement."
Dr. Raji commented, "We have no magic bullet cure for Alzheimer's disease. Our focus needs to be on prevention."
The study appears in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease.