Could exercise help ward off Alzheimer’s disease? A new study in the journal Neurology says yes, and it also suggests that working out is more effective at protecting the brain than brain challenges such as games and puzzles.
CNN.com Heath writer Elizabeth Landau reports that researchers in Scotland studied a group of nearly 700 people, all born in 1936. These men and women reported their leisure and physical activity levels at age 70. They also rated how often they engaged in various social and intellectual activities.
At age 73, scientists used (MRI) scans to measure certain biomarkers in the brains of the Scottish subjects.
They found that people who engaged in more physical activity generally showed less brain shrinkage and fewer white matter lesions, both of which can be signs of Alzheimer's disease.
The researchers found that intellectual and social engagement weren't as helpful to the brain, although there have been hints that these also carry benefits.
The results of the study are not surprising to Heather Snyder, senior associate director for medical and scientific relations at the Alzheimer’s Association.
She points out that physical activity helps to promote a healthy heart, and the well-being of the heart and brain are interrelated. An unhealthy heart isn't as efficient at pumping blood, which the brain needs.
Snyder says researchers aren’t sure how much exercise is optimal, or whether it's too late to start increasing physical activity after a certain age.
However, other research suggests that strength training could be the best exercise intervention.
To read more about this story, go to CNNHealth.com and enter “Alzheimers” in the search box.
I’m Bill Maier for WBCL.