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Exercise Can Shield the Aging Brain, Studies Show
Date:7/16/2012

By Jenifer Goodwin
HealthDay Reporter

SUNDAY, July 15 (HealthDay News) -- Evidence is mounting that exercise provides some protection from memory loss and Alzheimer's disease, with three new studies showing that a variety of physical activities are associated with healthier brains in older adults.

One study found that normally sedentary older adults who walked at a moderate pace three times a week for a year boosted the size of the brain region involved with memory.

A second study found that twice-weekly resistance (weight) training helped women with mild signs of mental decline improve their scores on thinking and memory tests. And the third showed that exercise done for strength and balance also improved memory.

None of the findings offer a clear-cut prescription for thwarting mental declines and Alzheimer's, but taken together, the growing body of research strongly suggests that physical activity is essential for healthy brain aging, and may help prevent Alzheimer's, said Heather Snyder, senior associate director of medical and scientific relations for the Alzheimer's Association.

"These studies really start to strengthen the literature about the impact that physical activity may have to reduce the risk of Alzheimer's disease," Snyder said.

The studies were to be presented Sunday at the Alzheimer's Association annual meeting in Vancouver.

In one study, U.S. researchers at three universities divided 120 older, sedentary adults without dementia into two groups. One group did aerobic exercise by walking on a track at a moderate pace for 30 to 45 minutes three times a week; the other group did stretching and toning exercises.

A year later, MRI brain scans showed that the size of the hippocampus, a region of the brain involved with memory, increased by 2 percent in the walking group. In the stretch-toning group, hippocampal brain volume declined by 1.5 percent.

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