The study of older adults at increased risk for Alzheimer's disease shows that moderate physical activity may protect brain health and stave off shrinkage of the hippocampus.
Dr J Carson Smith, a kinesiology researcher in the University of Maryland School of Public Health who conducted the study, said that while all of us will lose some brain volume as we age, those with an increased genetic risk for Alzheimer's disease typically show greater hippocampal atrophy over time.
"The good news is that being physically active may offer protection from the neurodegeneration associated with genetic risk for Alzheimer's disease," Smith said.
"We found that physical activity has the potential to preserve the volume of the hippocampus in those with increased risk for Alzheimer's disease, which means we can possibly delay cognitive decline and the onset of dementia symptoms in these individuals.
"Physical activity interventions may be especially potent and important for this group," Smith added.
Smith and colleagues, including Dr Stephen Rao from the Cleveland Clinic, tracked four groups of healthy older adults ages 65-89, who had normal cognitive abilities, over an 18-month period and measured the volume of their hippocampus (using structural magnetic resonance imaging, or MRI) at the beginning and end of that time period.


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