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Midlife Fitness Linked To Brain Volume Later In Life

First Posted: Feb 13, 2016 06:41 PM EST

It's important to always stay fit--not just for your physical health, but also for your cognitive health.

New findings published in the journal Neurology show that individuals who kept up with cardiovascular fitness during middle age were more likely to have larger brain volume later in life when compared to counterparts who did not exercise regularly.

"We found a direct correlation in our study between poor fitness and brain volume decades later, which indicates accelerated brain ageing," Doctor Nicole Spartano, of Boston University School of Medicine in the United States, said in a news release.

During the study, researchers analyzed the link between cardiovascular fitness of almost 2,000 individuals in their 40s and how their brains developed over time. None of the participants had dementia or heart disease at the start of the study.

First, researchers examined how participants fared on a treadmill test. Eighty-nine percent of the participants achieved their target heart rate at the start of the study.

Now on the third generation of participants, findings showed that for every eight-unit decrease in performance on the fitness trial, brain volume drops in size by the equivalent of about 2 years.

Could those with poor fitness be experiencing accelerated aging? Findings further suggested that individuals whose blood pressure and heart rate shot up during exercise were likely to have smaller brains at a later age.

"While diseases like Alzheimer's are caused by a range of risk factors including age and genetics, damage to the blood supply in the brain also has a role to play", Spartano concluded.

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