An active lifestyle in older age may prevent dementia, research reports


A recent study has found that maintaining an active lifestyle in older age may help to maintain your memory and thinking skills and reduce the risk of dementia. This study was conducted at Rush University Medical Center.

Though getting older is the leading risk factor for dementia, evidence indicates there are things you can do to reduce your risk. These comprise eating healthily, keeping active, and exercising your mind.

Regular physical activity is one of the best ways to decrease your risk of dementia. It is good for your weight, heart, circulation, and mental wellbeing.

The study involved 454 older individuals comprising 191 with dementia and 263 without dementia. The researchers observed that those who were more active than average had better memory and thinking skills as compared to those who were less active than average.

This was observed even in those who showed physical signs of dementia, like brain lesions or biomarkers of the disease.

Dr. Aron Buchman was the Lead Author of the study. According to him, people who moved more had better memory skills and thinking capabilities than those who did not move much at all.

As just stated in the journal Neurology, the participants experienced yearly physical exams as well as thinking and memory tests over the course of 20 years. Moreover, they had agreed to provide their brains for research upon their death, which occurred at an average of 91 years.

At an average of two years before death, Buchman and colleagues gave each participant a wrist-worn accelerometer. It would monitor the physical activity of participants 24 hours a day, including all from walking to engaging in vigorous exercise.

An active lifestyle may have a protective effect on your brain

After analyzing the average daily activity of participants, researchers found that more daily movement was related to improved thinking and memory skills, than less daily movement.

The study also showed that the participants who demonstrated better motor skills scored higher on thinking and memory tests. As better motor skills aid in movement and coordination. Therefore, they found that a more active and lively lifestyle may have a protective effect on the brain.

Further study displayed that each standard deviation rise in physical activity was linked to a 31% decreased probability of developing dementia. Further, it also presented that each standard deviation rise in motor ability was linked to a 55% decreased possibility of developing dementia.

Post-mortem analysis of the participants who donated their brain tissue showed that there was an association between improved physical activity and better test scores.

Investigators found that this association remained even after the adjustment for brain lesion severity and the presence of biomarkers for Alzheimer’s.

Researchers reported that the exercise is an inexpensive method to improve health. And this study demonstrates that it may have a defensive effect on the brain.

But this study does not provide evidence of cause and effect. It is also possible that people after a loss of memory and thinking skills may reduce their physical activity. But researchers require further studies to decide if moving more is actually valuable to the brain.

Be Physically Active

Being physically active, through exercise, household tasks, or other activities, has many welfares. It can help you;

  • Improve your strength
  • Have more energy
  • Improve your balance
  • Prevent or delay diabetes, heart disease, and other diseases
  • Perk up your mood and reduce despair

Studies link ongoing physical activity with welfares for the brain, too. Moreover, exercise stimulates the ability of human brain to maintain old network connections and make new which are vital to mental health.

Also, researchers found that aerobic exercise, like brisk walking, is more beneficial to cognitive health than non-aerobic stretching and toning exercise.


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Areeba Hussain
The author is a Medical Microbiologist and healthcare writer. She is a post-graduate of Medical Microbiology and Immunology. She covers all content on health and wellness including weight loss, nutrition, and general health.


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