People who move around more have sharper brains than couch potatoes, even well into old age and even if they already have some brain deterioration, researchers reported Wednesday.
The research helps answer a big question of whether exercise prevents dementia, or whether people with dementia-related damage to their brains move less because of that damage.
As has been found many times before, those who exercised more, or even moved around in daily life more, had clearer thinking and better memory well into old age. Researchers know this, but it had not been clear if exercise stopped some of the brain damage associated with memory loss. These pathologies included the plaques associated with Alzheimer’s, clogged or hardened arteries, and damage done by strokes or mini-strokes.
The findings support the idea that exercise and other activity give the brain an extra resilience and what's called cognitive reserve — extra resources that the brain can call on to keep memory and thinking clear even as brain cells die.