Fitness Matters for Brain Health

A woman tying her shoe in preparation for a run.

Getting into better shape may improve brain health and “slow down the aging process,” says neurologist Kan Ding, MD, who authored a new study. Her research showed that lower fitness levels lead to faster deterioration of vital nerve fibers in the brain. This leads to cognitive decline—including the types of memory problems seen in people with dementia.

Dr. Ding and her team studied older adults who showed early signs of memory loss. They found that those with lower fitness levels also had lower levels of nerve fibers that are used by neurons to communicate throughout the brain. The scientists used brain imaging and measures of cardiorespiratory fitness as a baseline, and conducted memory tests to establish a correlation between exercise, brain health, and cognition.

Other Factors in Brain Health Decline

A large-scale new study found that alcohol use is the most preventable risk factor for all types of dementia, especially early onset dementia. The study included more than 1 million participants. The researchers found that the majority of cases of early onset dementia (before age 65) were related to chronic heavy drinking.

Click to See Our Sources

“Poor Fitness Linked to Weaker Brain Fiber, Higher Dementia Risk,” UT Southwestern Medical Center, 2/14/18

“Largest Study of Its Kind Finds Alcohol Use Biggest Risk Factor for Dementia,” Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (Toronto), 2/20/18