Moderate exercise helps preserve memory while retarding physical signs of Alzheimer’s in people at risk for the disease, according to University of Wisconsin researchers.

People who exercised moderately for 30 minutes, five days a week, and those who were more aerobically fit than their peers showed fewer Alzheimer’s-related changes on brain scans over time. They were also cognitively healthier, reported Ozioma Okonkwo, Ph.D.

These results, in a group of studies, appeared to offset decline due to aging and the effect of genetics. Those factors worsened the condition of study participants overall, but less so in those who exercised.

“[W]e now show evidence that lifestyle habits – in this case regular, moderate exercise – can modify the effect of what is commonly considered a non-modifiable risk factor for Alzheimer’s,” said Okonkwo in a statement.

“If these findings are supported by more prospective, controlled studies, it would provide compelling evidence for physical activity as an effective approach to prevention, particularly in at-risk populations,” he concluded.

Okonkwo presented the findings at the American Psychological Association Annual Conference in Chicago.