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Moderately physical activity keeps brain healthy after 25 years

Staff Writer | September 10, 2016
A new study of 3050 twins finds moderately vigorous physical activity, more strenuous than walking, to be associated with better cognition in a 25-year follow-up.
Moderately physical activity
Ageing   A long-term follow-up study of 3050 twins
A long-term follow-up study of 3050 twins from the Finnish Twin Cohort has shown that midlife, moderately vigorous physical activity is associated with better cognition at old age.

The association was statistically independent of midlife hypertension, smoking, education level, sex, obesity and binge drinking. "This suggests that the beneficial influence of physical activity on the brain and cognition is not solely based on decreasing vascular risk factors," says researcher Paula Iso-Markku from the University of Helsinki.

The association was studied first in all individuals of the cohort, and then by comparing later cognition in pairs where one twin was more physically active than the other.

Increasing the volume of physical activity was not, however, associated with increased memory-protecting benefits. Instead, quite a moderate amount of physical activity was found to be sufficient for memory-protecting benefits, and only the most inactive group of twins stood out with a significantly higher risk for cognitive impairment.

"Overall, the study shows that moderately vigorous physical activity, meaning more strenuous than walking, is associated with better cognition after an average of 25 years," states Professor Urho Kujala from the University of Jyväskylä.

This finding is in accordance with earlier animal model studies, which have shown that physical activity increases the amount of growth factors in the brain and improves synaptic plasticity.