Physical activity is related to increased size of brain areas important for memory and learning, a new, international study reveals. An analysis of MRI brain scans from 10,125 people found that those who regularly engaged in physical activities such as walking, running or sports had larger brain volumes in key areas. Among the affected areas were gray matter, which helps with processing information, and the matter, which connects different brain regions, and the hippocampus.

“Our research supports earlier studies that show being physically active is good for your brain. Exercise not only lowers the risk of dementia but also helps in maintaining brain size, which is crucial as we age,” observes lead researcher Cyrus A. Raji, MD.

The study appears in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease.

A Lancet Study in 2020 found about a dozen modifiable risk factors increase risk for Alzheimer’s disease, including physical activity. This work builds upon previous work by this group, linking caloric burn from leisure activities to improved brain structure.