Exercise promotes brain health, but the exact mechanism underlying this relationship remains unclear. New research reveals that older adults who have the highest physical activity levels also have a higher total volume of gray matter and a higher average rate of glucose metabolism in the brain than their less active counterparts. Higher physical activity was also associated with lower insulin levels and body mass index. Study subjects included 134 men and women (average age 69) with no memory issues.
“These results may help us to understand how physical activity affects brain health, which may guide us in developing strategies to prevent or delay age-related decline in memory and thinking skills,” said senior study author Géraldine Poisnel, PhD, of the Inserm Research Center in Caen, France.
The findings suggest a connection between lower BMI and insulin levels and positive cognitive function. “Older adults who are physically active gain cardiovascular benefits, which may result in greater structural brain integrity,” said Poisnel. Study limitations include the fact that subjects self-reported physical activity.
The study on exercise and brain health is available in Neurology (2022; 98 , e2023–35), the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.
See also: Older Adults and Brain Fitness