Physical activity can prevent grey matter shrinkage

Published 14 October 2010

Walking more than six miles a week could reduce your risk of developing memory problems according to research published in the online issue of Neurology today (Wednesday, 13 October 2010).

As part of a large study, scientists at the University of Pittsburgh asked 299 adults, with an average age of 70, how far they walked each week. Nine years later they measured brain size and found people who walked between six and nine miles each week had greater grey matter volume than those who walked less. Volume was not maintained any better for those who walked more than nine miles. After 13 years, almost half of the people had developed some form of cognitive impairment. Maintained volume in certain parts of the brain was found to help reduce this risk.

Alzheimer's Society comment:

'This study provides further evidence that a healthy heart can lead to a healthy brain. One of the benefits of this research is that it eliminates the impact other socio-economic factors may play and focuses specifically on walking rather than exercise more generally.

'Although a link has been found between lack of exercise and brain shrinkage, we need more research to find out why physical activity may affect the brain.The best way to reduce your risk is to take regular exercise, eat healthily, don't smoke and get your blood pressure and cholesterol checked.'

Susanne Sorensen
Head of Research
Alzheimer's Society

Research Reference: Physical activity predicts gray matter volume in late adulthood by Erickson et al, Neurology online, Wednesday 13 October 2010.

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