Harvard Men's Health Watch

Regular exercise reduces the risk of mental decline

Physically active older adults are less likely to decline mentally, even if they already have brain changes that could put them at higher risk, according to a study in Stroke: Journal of the American Heart Association.

The study involved 638 people ages 65 to 84. As shown by MRI scans, the participants already had developed changes to the underlying circuitry of the brain. Such "white matter changes" can be a warning sign of future mental decline. The study participants were all still living independently.

Over three years, people in the group who exercised for at least 30 minutes on three days per week were less likely than sedentary people to develop mental impairment of any kind. The impairments on the list included Alzheimer's disease and vascular dementia from impaired blood flow to the brain.

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