Exercise is known to have tons of benefits, but the latest addition to the list is the fact that it can help protect your brain as you age. It plays an important role in decreasing the risk of developing neurodegenerative conditions like Alzheimers disease. A recent study published in the Journal of Neuroscience found that physical movement alters the activity of the brains immune cells which ultimately helps lower the rate of inflammation in the brain.The brain contains a host of special immune cells called the microglia. Think of these as the repair team in the brain that constantly checks the tissues for damage or infection and ensures all debris and toxins are cleared away. In order for them to jump into action mode, they need signals from pathogens like viruses or damaged cells. These signs prompt them to tweak their shape and produce anti-inflammatory molecule which fights and resolves infections.However, microglia can also be inappropriately activated as we age, causing inflammation. This is why brain function declines with age and this leads to neurodegenerative conditions such as Alzheimers. A recent study in lab mice showed that exercise can counteract some of the damaging effects of the cells being wrongly activated and boost cognitive function.The study looked at 167 men and women who donated their brains for post-mortem analysis. This allowed researchers to look for signs of disease in the brain such as unhealthy blood vessels and the presence of plaques. On average, they found that a third of the subjects had no cognitive impairment, a third had mild cognitive impairment and a third had been diagnosed with dementia. The post-mortem analysis revealed that 60 per cent of the participants had signs of Alzheimers disease.The study also found that the younger the participants, the more physically active they were and the better their motor function. Being more physically active was associated with lower microglial activation in certain brain regions which are typically affected early on when Alzheimers begins developing. These findings hold true even when signs of Alzheimers were present in the brain which suggests that physical activity can reduce the damaging effects of inflammation in the braineven when a disease has already started to develop.