Just ten minutes of physical exercise a day during middle age can prevent the brain from decline, study shows
- Researchers studied 1,600 people over a period of 25 years looking at activity
- They found that those active in middle age had healthier brains later in life
- The team say 10 minutes of daily exercise can reduce the risk of brain issues
Getting ten minutes of physical exercise a day while in middle age can help to protect your brain from decline as you get older, a new study shows.
Regular physical activity – such as walking briskly, running or cycling – in middle age into later life is associated with less brain damage 25 years later, say scientists.
Colombia University Irving Medical Center researchers studied 1,600 people with an average age of 53 who had attended five physical examinations over 25 years.
Their findings suggest greater amounts of ‘moderate-to-vigorous intensity’ physical activity in middle age have a ‘protective’ effect on the brain as you get older.
Regular physical activity – such as walking briskly, running or cycling – in middle age into later life is associated with less brain damage 25 years later, say scientists. Stock image
The participants involved in the study rated their weekly activity levels once at the start and again at two additional times over the 25 year period.
Each person reported the amount of time they engaged in moderate-to-vigorous intensity physical activity, which researchers classified as none, low, middle or high.
The researchers then used brain scans to measure participants’ grey and white brain matter and lesions, or areas of injury or disease in the brain, at the end of the study.
Study author Priya Palta said the findings suggest physical activity – particularly during mid-life – is closely linked to brain health.
‘Getting at least an hour and 15 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous intensity physical activity a week may be important throughout your lifetime for promoting brain health and preserving the actual structure of your brain,’ Palta said.
‘In particular, engaging in more than two-and-a-half hours of physical activity per week in middle age was associated with fewer signs of brain disease.’
After adjusting for lifestyle factors and demographics people with no moderate-to-vigorous physical activity in mid-life had a 47 per cent greater chance of developing small areas of brain damage after 25 years than those who did exercise.
Researchers used brain scans to measure the amount of damage to the brain’s white matter – the tissue composed of nerve fibres connecting different regions.regions – and found higher activity levels were linked to more intact white matter.
The team also looked at movement of water molecules in the brain tissue.
Participants who reported high physical activity in mid-life had movement that was more beneficial, compared to participants who reported no activity in mid-life.
The researchers then used brain scans to measure participants’ grey and white brain matter and lesions, or areas of injury or disease in the brain, at the end of the study. Stock image
Dr Palta said the results show being active in mid-life has real brain benefits, particularly ‘consistently high levels of mid-life moderate-to-vigour physical activity’.
Other research has shown that brain lesions may be caused by inflammation or other damage to the small blood vessels in the brain.
Dr Palta added: ‘Our research suggests that physical activity may impact cognition in part through its effects on small vessels in the brain.
‘This study adds to the body of evidence showing that exercise with moderate-to-vigorous intensity is important for maintaining thinking skills throughout your lifetime.’
The study has been published in Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.