A new study provides further evidence that physical activity may protect against cognitive decline.
Researchers followed four groups of older adults who were categorized by physical activity levels and genetic risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease (based on the presence or absence of the APoE-4 allele, a known genetic risk factor). After 18 months, researchers found hippocampal atrophy only in those who had both low physical activity levels and high genetic risk. Because the hippocampus – the area of the brain responsible for memory and spatial orientation – is often the first area affected by cognitive decline, researchers believe their findings suggest physical activity may help to maintain hippocampal volume in those at high genetic risk of developing Alzheimer’s.
While more research is needed to identify the level and amount of physical activity that may help protect against cognitive decline, public health officials should work to integrate cognitive health messages into existing efforts to promote physical activity. More information on the link between physical activity and cognitive health, including a short video, is available here.