How Staying Physically Active May Protect the Aging Brain | NYT

Simple activities like walking boost immune cells in the brain that may help to keep memory sharp and even ward off Alzheimer’s disease.

Staying physically active as we age substantially drops our risk of developing dementia during our lifetimes, and it doesn’t require prolonged exercise. Walking or moving about, rather than sitting, may be all it takes to help bolster the brain, and a new study of octogenarians from Chicago may help to explain why.
The study, which tracked how often older people moved or sat and then looked deep inside their brains after they passed away, found that certain vital immune cells worked differently in the brains of older people who were active compared to their more sedentary peers. Physical activity seemed to influence their brains’ health, their thinking abilities and whether they experienced the memory loss of Alzheimer’s disease. The findings add to growing evidence that when we move our bodies, we change our minds, no matter how advanced our age.
What these findings suggest is that physical activity may delay or alter memory loss from Alzheimer’s disease in older people, partly by keeping microglia fit, said Kaitlin Casaletto, an assistant professor of neuropsychology at the U.C.S.F. Memory and Aging Center, who led the new study.