Scientists from the O'Donnell Brain Institute (USA) have found that a low level of physical activity accelerates the degradation of brain fiber, leading to a decrease in cognitive functions and memory impairment, according to the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease.
"This research supports the hypothesis that improving people's fitness may improve their brain health and slow down the aging process,"
said Dr. Kan Ding, a neurologist from the Peter O'Donnell Jr. Brain Institute who authored the study.
The study focused on a type of brain tissue called white matter, which is composed of millions of bundles of nerve fibers used by neurons to communicate across the brain.
The study involved elderly patients with a high risk of Alzheimer's disease, early signs of memory loss, or mild cognitive impairment. The researchers determined that lower fitness levels were associated with weaker white matter, which in turn correlated with lower brain function.
However, the study leaves plenty of unanswered questions about how fitness and Alzheimer's disease are intertwined. For instance, what fitness level is needed to reduce the risk of dementia notably? Is it too late to intervene when patients begin showing symptoms?
"A lot of work remains to understand better and treat dementia," said Dr. Ding, Assistant Professor of Neurology & Neurotherapeutics. "But, eventually, the hope is that our studies will convince people to exercise more."