Increased physical activity provides greater protection against cognitive decline and brain tissue loss, new research has found. 

The investigators studied walking activity in a group of nearly 200 adults. Beneficial effects were seen even at modest levels of activity, but the strongest benefits were seen at 8,900 steps per day – just under the daily recommendation of 10,000.

In addition, exercise appeared to slow brain decline in participants who had high levels of Alzheimer’s disease-related brain plaques, said Jasmeer Chhatwal, M.D., Ph.D. “Because there are currently no disease-modifying therapies for Alzheimer’s disease, there is a critical need to identify potential risk-altering factors that might delay progression of the disease,” he said. 

The study was published in JAMA Neurology, and presented at this week’s Alzheimer’s Association International Conference in Los Angeles.

In other conference news:

  • Women may be better able than men to compensate for cognitive changes due to Alzheimer’s disease because their brains can maintain metabolic function, according to one new study. But the advantage may lead to missed opportunities for early intervention, the authors said.
  • Scientists continue to debate whether Alzheimer’s disease is tied to infection. One company is studying gingivitis bacterium as a possible factor in Alzheimer’s progression. See the complete rundown on this research here.