People who do regular physical activity have healthier brains and reduce their risk of Alzheimer's disease, according to a report released to mark dementia awareness week.
Apart from overall health benefits, physical activity significantly improves brain health, says Dr Maree Farrow, co-author of a paper released by Alzheimer's Australia and Fitness Australia.
"About half of Alzheimer's disease cases are potentially attributable to risk factors you can change," says Dr Farrow, whose paper is based on recent Australian and international research.
A study by US researchers shows that around 13 per cent of Alzheimer's disease cases are attributable to physical inactivity.
And Australian research shows a small increase in the number of physically active people could have a dramatic impact on the number of dementia cases.
It is normal for the brain to shrink a little as people age, says Dr Farrow. But this is reduced in people who engage in regular physical activity.
"Whatever your stage of life, being fit and healthy matters," Dr Farrow says.
"We can't yet cure dementia but we can reduce our risk by simply becoming more physically active," says Fitness Australia CEO Lauretta Stace.
"This can be as easy as going for a regular walk."