Forget the crossword puzzles, stimulating political discussions and brain games. New research suggests that exercise is a better way to protect one’s memory and thinking.

In a recent study published in Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology, researchers examined medical records of 638 people from Scotland born in 1936. The participants were given MRI scans at age 73. They gave details about their exercise habits, and social and mentally stimulating activities. After three years, those who participated in more physical activity had less brain shrinkage than those who exercised minimally.

“People in their seventies who participated in more physical exercise, including walking several times a week, had less brain shrinkage and other signs of aging in the brain than those who were less physically active,” said study author Alan J. Gow, from the University of Edinburgh in Scotland. “On the other hand, our study showed no real benefit to participating in mentally and socially stimulating activities on brain size, as seen on MRI scans, over the three-year time frame.”

— Anne Aurand, The Bulletin