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Unfit Adults more likely to have Smaller Brain Volumes later on in Life, Study finds

Update Date: Feb 11, 2016 11:37 AM EST

Middle-aged adults who are not in great physical shape are more likely to have a smaller brain volume later on in life, a new study reported.

"Brain volume is one marker of brain aging," lead author Nicole Spartano of Boston University School of Medicine told CBS News. "Our brains shrink as we age, and this atrophy is related to cognitive decline and increased risk for dementia."

Spartano added to FOX News via email, "We found that poor fitness in midlife was linked to more rapid brain aging two decades later. This message may be especially important for people with heart disease or at risk for heart disease, in whom we found an even stronger relationship between fitness and brain aging,"

For this study, Spartano and her colleagues examined data on 1,583 participants who were from the Framingham Heart Study. The study had recorded their fitness levels at the average age of 40 via a treadmill test. None of the participants had dementia or heart disease at the time.

The research team tested the participants' fitness levels nearly 20 years later via a treadmill test that was not as hard due to the participants' age. They also analyzed brain health by conducting magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans.

The team found that the MRI scans in participants who had below average fitness levels in their 40s revealed smaller brain volumes when compared to the brain volumes seen in participants who were considered to be fit during that time.

People who experienced increased blood pressure and heart rate - indicators of poor fitness - during the first test also had smaller brain volumes two decades later.

The researchers and other experts recommend everyone, regardless of age, to try and add more physical activities into their lifestyle.

The study's findings were published in the journal, Neurology.

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