by Rob Wicker
Are you thinking about exercise as a goal in 2020? You’ve probably heard that you can exercise to prevent dementia. It’s not a myth! The results of these two new studies will motivate you to get moving. As reported by The New York Times, there is strong evidence that getting in shape keeps your memory sharp and lowers your risk for dementia.
What if I haven’t exercised regularly before?
First of all, the good news is that positive effects occur even if we do not begin exercising until we are middle-aged or older. Some types of exercise are especially good for preserving memory.
Researchers at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology looked at whether people in good physical condition performed better on memory tests than people who are out of shape. The researchers studied the health and fitness records of more than 30,000 middle-aged people. As a result, they determined that men and women who were fit through the study period were almost 50 percent less likely to develop dementia than the least-fit men and women. One of the more interesting findings is that people who began the study out of shape but achieved fitness showed the same reduction in their risk for dementia.
If you are curious about your current state of fitness, the university offers a free, online fitness calculator at https://www.ntnu.edu/cerg/vo2max.
So, what kind of exercise should I be doing?
Researchers at McMaster University in Ontario tested what types of exercise might be most effective at increasing both aerobic fitness and memory performance in healthy, older adults. They recruited 64 sedentary men and women aged 60 or older. They measured the fitness and thinking skills, such as where a person parked his or her car yesterday. This kind of memory frequently declines with age, therefore poor recall may signal the beginning of cognitive decline.
The researchers randomly assigned the volunteers to two groups. One of the groups walked moderately on treadmills three times a week for about 50 minutes. The other group implemented 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.
After 12 weeks, the volunteers repeated their fitness and cognitive tests, with remarkable results. Only the interval walkers showed significant improvements in both physical endurance and memory performance. Therefore, the more fit someone became, the more his or her memory sharpened.
The research implies it is not too late for anyone to use exercise to prevent dementia and protect their memories. However, the activity must be intense enough to raise heart rates. For example, when walking, go uphill or pick up the pace until you are at least slightly out of breath.
Have a great 2020 and stay fit. Your cognitive health may depend on it.
For more resources, visit our “News” page to learn more about Alzheimer’s disease and dementia-related topics.