Active older adults seem to have healthier, fitter brains than those who don’t exercise, per findings reported in Alzheimer’s & Dementia (2022; doi:10.1002/alz.12530), the journal of the Alzheimer’s Association. University of California, San Francisco, and University of British Columbia investigators examined the brain tissue from 404 deceased older adults. They also analyzed activity data prior to death. They found that the individuals who were more active had higher brain levels of proteins that promote healthy synaptic functioning. Synapses are the transmission point between neurons; healthy synapses improve cognitive function and may support other aspects of brain health.
“It may be that physical activity exerts a global sustaining effect, supporting and stimulating healthy function of proteins that facilitate synaptic transmission throughout the brain,” said senior study author William Honer, MD, Department of Psychiatry, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia. These findings may help experts understand the mechanisms behind why exercise benefits brain health, particularly for older adults.