Bethan Mooney for TIME
By Alexandra Sifferlin
December 29, 2016
TIME Health
For more, visit TIME Health.

Exercise can combat cognitive decline, according to the results of a new study. Older adults who did high amounts of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity had a 36% lower risk of cognitive impairment, as well as better memory and executive function, than those who did less.

In the study, published in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, researchers outfitted 6,400 people older than 65 years old with an activity tracker for a week. They also assessed people’s cognitive abilities through a series of tasks. Three years later, the people who did moderate-to-vigorous levels of physical activity were significantly less likely to experience cognitive problems than those who were sedentary or did light physical activity.

The recent report adds to the scientific evidence that physical activity is linked to better brain health. Exercise has been shown to improve blood flow to the brain, which can stimulate the growth of new blood vessels and cells; it has also been shown to lower a person’s risk for chronic diseases like diabetes and obesity, which can take a toll on brain health over time. Another recent study found that exercise can slow aging in the brain by 10 years.

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