Researchers found that people over 70 who took regular exercise showed less brain shrinkage over a three-year period than those who did little exercise.
Psychologists and Neuroimaging experts, based at the University of Edinburgh, did not find there to be any benefit to brain health for older people from participation in social or mentally stimulating activities.
Greater brain shrinkage is linked to problems with memory and thinking and the researchers say their findings suggest that exercise is potentially one important pathway to maintaining a healthy brain both in terms of size and reducing damage.
The researchers also examined the brain’s white matter â€” the wiring that transmits messages round the brain. They found that people over 70 who were more physically active had fewer ‘damaged’ areas â€” visible as abnormal areas on scanning â€” in the white matter than those who did little exercise.