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The effect of midlife physical activity on structural brain changes in the elderly


Rovio, Suvi, Spulber, Gabriela, Nieminen, Lasse J., Niskanen, Eini, Winblad, Bengt, Tuomilehto, Jaakko, Nissinen, Aulikki, Soininen, Hilkka, Kivipelto, Miia


Neurobiology Of Aging, Volume: 31, No.: 11, Pages.: 1927-1936

Year of Publication



Physical activity has been associated with decreased dementia risk in recent studies, but the effects for structural brain changes (i.e. white matter lesions (WML) and/or brain atrophy) have remained unclear. The CAIDE participants were a random population-based sample studied in midlife and re-examined on average 21 years later (n=2000). A subpopulation (n=75; 31 control, 23 MCI, 21 dementia) was MRI scanned at the re-examination. T1-weighted images were used to investigate grey matter (GM) density, and FLAIR-images for WML rating. Persons who actively participated in physical activity at midlife tended to have larger total brain volume (β 0.12; 95% CI 0.17-1.16, p=0.10) in late-life than sedentary persons even after adjustments. GM volume was larger among the active (β 0.19; 95% CI 0.07-1.48, p=0.03), whereas the association between midlife physical activity and larger WM volume became non-significant (β 0.03; 95% CI -0.64 to 0.86, p=0.77) after full adjustments. The differences in the GM density localized mainly in frontal lobes. There was no significant association between midlife physical activity and severe WML later in life after full adjustments (OR 4.20, 95% CI 0.26-69.13, p=0.32).; Copyright © 2008 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Bibtex Citation

@article{Rovio_2010, doi = {10.1016/j.neurobiolaging.2008.10.007}, url = {}, year = 2010, month = {nov}, publisher = {Elsevier {BV}}, volume = {31}, number = {11}, pages = {1927--1936}, author = {Suvi Rovio and Gabriela Spulber and Lasse J. Nieminen and Eini Niskanen and Bengt Winblad and Jaakko Tuomilehto and Aulikki Nissinen and Hilkka Soininen and Miia Kivipelto}, title = {The effect of midlife physical activity on structural brain changes in the elderly}, journal = {Neurobiology of Aging} }


aged, aging, analysis of variance, anatomy histology, brain, cognition disorders, cohort studies, dementia, female, humans, longitudinal studies, male, matchedpair analysis, middle aged, motor activity, organ size, pathology, physiology, population surveillance, reference values

Countries of Study


Types of Dementia

Dementia (general / unspecified), Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI)

Types of Study

Cohort Study

Type of Outcomes

Risk reduction (of dementia and co-morbidities)

Type of Interventions

Non-pharmacological Treatment

Non-Pharmaceutical Interventions

Exercise (inc. dancing)