When older people are physically active, there is more of a protein in their brains that protects neurons. As a result, their cognitive performance is maintained, and they have a lower risk of developing dementia.
More than memory
Cognitive skills are more than a person’s memory. They also include, for example, language, thinking and problem-solving skills. And it has already been shown in mice that physical activity increases cognitive performance.
How physical activity affects the brain
Californian scientists have tracked the physical activity of seniors. After their death, these subjects donated their brains, which the researchers examined. They found that physically active seniors have more presynaptic proteins in their brains. These proteins support the connections between neurons. These in turn are important for cognitive performance and this is considered a factor that protects against dementia.
Those who were physically active in the last two years of their lives had the most presynaptic proteins in their brains. That means, you have to stay physically active throughout your life to maintain this effect.
The more the better
The more presynaptic proteins in the brain, the more connections there are between the neurons, which leads to improved transmission of information between the neurons. This makes the brain more efficient. But not only that, the motor skills of the active seniors were also better than those of the inactive ones.
Preventing Alzheimer’s disease
Alzheimer’s dementia, in turn, occurs when harmful proteins build up in the brain (described here). The brain is slowly destroyed by these harmful proteins and thus, for example, the memory decreases. But the effects of the harmful proteins are also dampened when the neurons are protected by presynaptic proteins.
Previous studies have shown that exercise can protect older people from dementia. The current study has shown how this works. In this way, not only your body, but also your brain stays fit into old age.
- Casaletto, K., Ramos‐Miguel, A., VandeBunte, A., Memel, M., Buchman, A., Bennett, D., & Honer, W. (2022). Late‐life physical activity relates to brain tissue synaptic integrity markers in older adults. Alzheimer’s & Dementia.
- Buchman, A. S., Boyle, P. A., Yu, L., Shah, R. C., Wilson, R. S., & Bennett, D. A. (2012). Total daily physical activity and the risk of AD and cognitive decline in older adults. Neurology, 78(17), 1323-1329.