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Light, Incremental Physical Activity Can Help Reduce Brain Aging

Each additional hour spent in light-intensity physical activity equivalent to about 1.1 years less brain aging

brain skull

TUESDAY, May 14, 2019 (HealthDay News) -- Incremental physical activity (PA), even of light intensity, is associated with larger brain volume and healthy brain aging, according to a study published online April 19 in JAMA Network Open.

Using data from the Framingham Heart Study, Nicole L. Spartano, Ph.D., of the Boston University School of Medicine, and colleagues conducted a cross-sectional, community-based cohort study of the association of accelerometry-determined PA with brain magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) measures in a sample of 2,354 participants. The authors sought to examine the association of total steps walked per day and total dose (intensity × duration) of PA with brain volumes on MRI.

The researchers found that each additional hour spent in light-intensity physical activity was equivalent to approximately 1.1 years less brain aging. For individuals not meeting the PA guidelines, each hour of light-intensity PA and walking 7,500 steps or more per day correlated with higher total brain volume, equivalent to about 1.4 to 2.2 years less brain aging.

"After adjusting for light-intensity PA, neither increasing moderate-to-vigorous PA levels nor meeting the threshold moderate-to-vigorous PA level recommended by the PA guidelines were significantly associated with total brain volume," the authors write. "These data are consistent with the notion that the potential benefits of PA on brain aging may accrue at a lower, more achievable level of intensity or duration."

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