The results were reported in the October 13 online issue of Neurology.
In the study, 299 dementia-free people (mean age, 78 years) from the Cardiovascular Health Cognition Study were assessed for physical activity, as measured by the number of blocks they walked in 1 week.
Nine years after the physical activity assessment, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans were used to measure brain size. Four years later, the participants were tested for cognitive impairment and dementia.
Participants who walked at least 72 blocks — approximately 6 to 9 miles — per week had more gray matter (which control your cognitive function) than people who walked less. However, walking more than 72 blocks did not appear to increase gray matter volume any further.
Furthermore, participants who had greater gray matter volume and exercised had a 2-fold reduced risk for cognitive impairment.
The study indicated that there is a relation between the amount of walking earlier in life and brain volume in later adulthood and that greater volume of tissue related to walking are associated with a reduced risk of cognitive impairment.
Source: Neurology. 2010;75:1415-1422.
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