Improve or Prevent Age-Related Cognitive Decline with Exercise

Love it or hate it, exercise is part of life. I’m on the side of “hate it”. I really don’t like to exercise and usually find any excuse to avoid working out my body, and, as it turns out, my brain as well. Researchers are finding that individuals who are physically fit, and exercise regularly cut the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease or dementia in HALF! How’s that for motivation?

What if I’ve never exercised, will it still help?

Alzheimer’s and dementia run in my family and has become a passion of mine, so much so, that I wrote my thesis on the topic. One of the things I’ve recently discovered is your state of physical fitness directly relates to your risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia. That’s right! A 2018 study, done at the O’Donnell Brain Institute, indicates people with lower fitness levels had weaker “white matter” in the brain, as compared with people with higher fitness levels and thus more susceptible to cognitive decline. The Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NUST) studied the medical records of 30,000 middle-age individuals. They found individuals who were physically fit were 50% less likely to develop demential than “less fit” individuals.

What happens if you’re like me, and you hate exercise or are among those that are considered “less fit”? Is it too late? You’ll be happy to know that IT’S NOT TOO LATE!! You’ll reap the brain boosting benefits of exercise even if you haven’t exercised until middle-age or even later. The study at NUST indicated that individuals who began the study “less fit”, but achieved a “physically fit” status during the study, showed the same reduction in the risk of dementia as those who began the study “physically fit”.

What type of exercise is best?

As it turns out, interval aerobics is the best for brain health. Researchers at McMaster University in Ontario tested types of exercises that were most effective act increasing both physical and memory performance in adults 60 years and older. They tested 64 sedentary middle-age men and women, and began by evaluating the fitness level and memory performance of each individual.

The individuals were randomly assigned to two groups: Group 1– moderate treadmill walking for 50 minutes 3x/week and group 2– “interval walking; increasing the incline for four minutes to raise heart rates followed by three minutes of easy walking. Then repeat for a total of four rounds of intervals.

The fitness and memory tested were repeated 12 weeks later. Incredibly, only the interval walkers showed improvements in both fitness and memory. The interval walkers, with a greater level of fitness, had improved their memory to a greater extent than the moderate walkers. While any type of movement is good, movement that gets your blood pumping is best for both body and mind.

Closing thoughts…

Jane Fonda once said “It’s never too late – never too late to start over, never too late to be happy.” I guess that’s true with most things in life, even exercise and brain health. Remember, with the right diet and exercise, things can still be turned around. Your life and your memories are worth it.

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