Brain health has been a hot topic lately—especially now that an estimated one in 10 Americans over 65 are living with Alzheimer’s in 2017. In the past, studies have shown that exercise can keep your brain healthy as you age, and a new study published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease found even more evidence to support those findings. 

In the study from UT Southwestern, researchers had older people with a high risk of developing Alzheimer’s take memory and other mental tests to measure their brain function, and used their VO2 max ratings to gauge their fitness levels. (Using VO2 max ratings sets the study apart from past research, which relied on people to self-report their own fitness levels.)

Participants’ brains were also scanned to see how well their white matter—the bundles of nerves in the brain that affect learning, brain function, and communication between different parts of the brain—was functioning. Of the patients, who all had early signs of memory loss or mild cognitive impairment, the less physically fit people tended to have weaker white matter, which correlates with lower brain function.

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