THURSDAY, Dec. 9, 2021 (HealthDay News) — There appear to be interactions between physical activity and air pollution (AP) in their possible effects on structural brain volumes, according to a study published online Dec. 8 in Neurology.

Melissa A. Furlong, Ph.D., from the University of Arizona in Tucson, and colleagues examined whether physical activity modifies the associations of AP with brain volume using data from the U.K. Biobank, which enrolled more than 500,000 adults from 2006 to 2010. A total of 8,600 participants were included with an average age of 55.55 years.

The researchers found that in overall models, vigorous physical activity (VigPA) was positively associated with grey matter volume (GMV) and negatively associated with white matter hyperintensity volume (WMHV). Negative associations were seen for nitrogen dioxide (NO2), fine particulate matter (PM2.5) absorbance, and PM2.5 with GMV. There were interactions observed for NO2 and PM2.5absorbance with VigPA on WMHV. Participants with high VigPA showed stronger associations between these air pollutants and WMHVs. For those in areas of low NO2 and PM2.5absorance, VigPA was negatively associated with WMHV, while the association was null for those living in areas of high NO2 and PM2.5absorbance.

“If these findings are replicated further, policy could be structured to minimize exposure to AP during exercise,” the authors write. “Since most AP sources are traffic-related, promoting running or bicycling along paths far from heavily trafficked roads may reduce AP-related risks.”

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