We all know that leading a physically active lifestyle can have a significant impact on our well being; but can regular exercise help those with dementia, or even prevent the on-set of this debilitating condition? This question continues to intrigue researchers and fuel further investigations.
Although there are no clear-cut answers yet, a recent study, published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, showed that people who did more moderate-intensity physical activity were more likely to have healthy patterns of glucose metabolism in their brains – a sign of healthy brain activity – than those who did less. Physical activity helps your brain not only by keeping the blood flowing, but also by increasing chemicals that protect the brain, and a regular amount of exercise could protect against Alzheimer’s by stimulating the brain’s ability to maintain old connections – as well as make new ones.
If you’ve been inactive for a while, starting an exercise program can be daunting. We suggest:
Aiming for at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise each week. The ideal plan should involve a combination of cardio exercise and strength training. By adding just moderate amounts of physical activity to your weekly routine, it could have a profound effect on your health.
Building muscle to pump up your brain. Resistance training not only increases muscle mass, bu it helps you maintain brain health, improve your mood, and enhance concentration. (For those over 65, adding 2-3 strength sessions to your weekly routine may cut your risk of Alzheimer’s in half.)
Include balance and coordination exercises. Head injuries from falls are an increasing risk as you age, which in turn can increase your risk for Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. Balance and coordination exercises can help you stay agile and avoid spills. We suggest trying yoga, Pilates, or exercises using balance balls for increased flexibility and improved posture.
Although promising research is underway, further studies are needed to learn more about the long-term benefits of exercise for brain health and cognitive function. No matter what the research says about the impact on cognition, there are so many beneficial reasons to exercise that the decision to embrace physical activity should be a “no-brainer!”
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