Association of physical activity levels and brain white matter in older Latino adults

Guilherme M. Balbim, Kirk I. Erickson, Olusola A. Ajilore, Susan Aguiñaga, Eduardo E. Bustamante, Melissa Lamar, David X. Marquez

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: Investigate the associations between self-reported physical activity (PA) engagement and white matter (WM) health (i.e. volume, integrity, and hyperintensities) in older Latinos. Design: Cross-sectional study with community-dwelling older adults from predominantly Latino neighborhoods. Participants: Thirty-four cognitively healthy older Latinos from two different cohorts. Measurements: Participants self-reported demographic information, PA engagement [Community Healthy Activities Model Program for Seniors (CHAMPS) Physical Activity Questionnaire for Older Adults] and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). We used high-resolution three-dimensional T1- and T2-FLAIR weighted images and diffusion tensor imaging acquired via 3 T MRI. We performed a series of hierarchical linear regression models with the addition of relevant covariates to examine the associations between self-reported PA levels and WM volume, integrity, and hyperintensities (separately). We adjusted p-values with the use of the Benjamini-Hochberg's false discovery rate procedure. Results: Higher reported levels of leisure-time moderate-to-vigorous PA were significantly associated with higher WM volume of the posterior cingulate (β = 0.220, SE = 0.125, 95% CI 0.009-0.431, p = 0.047) and isthmus cingulate (β = 0.212, SE = 0.110, 95% CI 0.001-0.443, p = 0.044) after controlling for intracranial volume. Higher levels of total PA were significantly associated with higher overall WM volume of these same regions (posterior cingulate: β = 0.220, SE = 0.125, CI 0.024-0.421, p = 0.046; isthmus cingulate: β = 0.220, SE = 0.125, 95% CI 0.003-0.393; p = 0.040). Significant p-values did not withstand Benjamini-Hochberg’s adjustment. PA was not significantly associated with WM integrity or WM hyperintensities. Conclusion: Higher levels of PA, particularly higher leisure-time moderate-to-vigorous PA, might be associated with greater WM volume in select white matter regions key to brain network integration for physical and cognitive functioning in older Latinos. More research is needed to further confirm these associations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1599-1615
Number of pages17
JournalEthnicity and Health
Issue number7
StatePublished - 2022


  • Brain white matter
  • latinos
  • older adults
  • physical activity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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