A long-term aerobic exercise program boosted memory abilities and cerebral blood flow in adults at risk for Alzheimer’s disease, say investigators.

The researchers followed 30 participants, ages 60 and older, with memory problems. Half underwent one year of aerobic exercise training, and a control group did stretching exercises. The exercise cohort experienced a 47% improvement in certain memory scores after 12 months, while the control group showed minimal memory changes, reported Binu Thomas, Ph.D., from UT Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas.

There were notable brain changes as well. Imaging taken at the beginning and end of the study showed increased blood flow to two regions that are key to memory function: the anterior cingulate cortex and the hippocampus.

Thomas said the findings suggest that increased blood flow to the brain can help older people with memory issues improve cognition.

“We’ve shown that even when your memory starts to fade, you can still do something about it by adding aerobic exercise to your lifestyle,” he concluded.

The study was published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease.