Researchers at University of Colorado selected around 60 people between 21 and 55 years of age who were involved in studies of alcohol and nicotine use. The participants were asked about the amount of alcohol they drank, the time they spent on exercise and other traits.
The researchers found that while long-term alcohol consumption led to neural damage similar to the decline as people age, aerobic exercises such as running or swimming reduced the damage to specific parts of the brain's white matter, though heavy consumption of alcohol and a sedentary life style led to increased risk of brain damage.
"Given that exercise is protective against some of the neural and cognitive effects of ageing, it seemed likely that aerobic exercise may also work to reverse or prevent some of the damage to the brain caused by chronic alcohol consumption. This study found that the relationship between alcohol consumption and white matter depends upon how much people exercise", lead researcher Hollis Karoly said.