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No matter what you do, don’t stop moving. Dance, walk, jog, garden, swim, chase grandkids — anything that keeps your body in motion. That is, if you want to keep your brain from shrinking.
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.
It’s true. Patients followed over the course of a 30-year Cardiovascular Health Study showed that increasing physical activity was correlated with larger brain volumes in the frontal, temporal, and parietal lobes including the hippocampus — the part of your brain responsible for memory and learning. Individuals who experienced this brain benefit from increasing their physical activity also experienced a 50 percent reduction in their risk of Alzheimer’s dementia. Of the roughly 25% in the sample who had mild cognitive impairment associated with Alzheimer’s, increasing physical activity also benefitted their brain volumes.
Said lead author Cyrus A. Raji, MD, PhD, of UCLA, “This is the first study in which we have been able 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, PhD, Editor in Chief of Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, added, “Currently the greatest promise in Alzheimer’s disease research is lifestyle intervention including increased exercise. 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.”
So get moving! Have you ever tried tai chi? It’s great, especially if you need to take it easy on your joints or prefer to exercise inside. Watch this Tai Chi instructional video.