Decreasing The Risk of Dementia

There is a growing body of research that shows that older adults who participate in a consistent exercise plan are less likely to develop dementia as they age. The decline of cognitive functioning is not necessarily inevitable as we age. The good news is that there are ways to boost brain power and prevent memory and thinking problems. The latest research shows that the best way to increase your odds of growing into old age without dementia or other memory problems is to exercise regularly.

One study conducted by a neuroscientist found that a group of older adults who engaged in aerobic exercise three times a week for 45 minutes per day, after one year showed a significant change in their brains. The follow-up MRI scans of these people showed that the volume of their brains actually increased by an average of 2%. The other group in the study, who did not perform aerobic exercise, showed an average loss of 1.5% in their brain volume. Other follow-up testing also showed that increased brain volume corresponded to better memory skills. A large study reported in 2006 was done with 1,740 individuals age 65 and older for over 6 years. All the participants, who were assessed as cognitively normal at the beginning of the study, reported on how many days a week they engaged in at least 15 minutes of physical activity such as walking, biking, swimming, aerobics or weight training. At the end of the study the findings showed that the rate of dementia development was significantly lower for those who exercised more often. The researchers reached the conclusion that individuals who exercised at least three times a week reduced their risk of developing dementia by 32 percent.

The relationship between exercise and cognitive functioning is an area that will continue to be studied. It is an important relationship to understand. More research is coming that will provide additional information on just how exercise affects brain health, and how different types of exercise specifically benefit the brain.

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