In the absence of a cure, increasing one’s physical activity appears to be a promising strategy for combating dementia. In fact, a new study shows that 10-to-20 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous exercise each day may be the minimum required to boost key brain functions.

The researchers aimed to find the precise exercise dosage needed to improve cognitive health in older adults. Many seniors simply cannot achieve the amount recommended by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, said lead author Nicole Spartano, Ph.D., of the Boston University School of Medicine.

Spartano and colleagues analyzed physical activity data from the Framingham Heart Study. They found that incrementally higher doses of physical activity, at levels lower than U.S. guidelines, were related to better executive function in middle-aged and older adults. Likewise, just 10 minutes of moderate activity per day was linked to better verbal memory. In addition, incrementally increasing steps to more than 5,000 per day was tied to better executive function.

The research builds on the team’s previous findings, released in April. In that study, each additional hour spent in light-intensity physical activity was found to equal about 1.1 years less brain aging.

“We have really only just begun to uncover the relationship between physical activity and brain health,”  said Spartano at the time.

The study was published in Alzheimer’s & Dementia: Translational Research & Clinical Interventions.