Different kinds of physical activity shown to increase brain volume

A new study, from UCLA Medical Centre and University of Pittsburgh, suggests that a variety of physical activities, from walking, to gardening and dancing, can increase brain volume.

The research was published today (Friday 11 March) in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease.

The researchers studied 876 patients aged on average 78, across four research sites in the United States. Participants were asked questions about their physical activity habits and had MRI scans of their brains, which were analysed to measure the volumes of brain structures including parts associated with memory and Alzheimer's disease. The relationship between physical activities, from gardening and dancing to riding an exercise bike at the gym, were compared to the brain’s volume. 

The results of the analysis suggested that increasing physical activity was associated with increases in the volume of certain parts of the brain. 

Dr Doug Brown, Director of Research and Development at Alzheimer’s Society said:

'Previous research has shown that as well as boosting your overall health, exercise may help to improve some of the underlying causes of Alzheimer’s disease. This paper adds to this body of evidence by suggesting that different kinds of exercise can have a positive effect on the brain. However, we need dig deeper to understand how this effect on the brain influences dementia risk.

'Keeping physically active is one of the best ways you can reduce your risk of dementia. People who find the idea of running or cycling a long way daunting will be pleased to see that other forms of activity such as dancing, gardening and hiking also appear to have benefits. Other ways you can reduce your risk include avoiding smoking and eating a healthy, balanced diet.'

Further information

  • Staying healthy factsheet