If you or a loved one are worried about developing Alzheimer’s, the variety of preventative therapies and memory care practices that are available may be overwhelming. It can seem as though there is constantly a new drug, or dietary routine that claims toprevent the disease. What if lowering your risk didn’t involve any supplements or pills, and was as easy as taking a walk? Two new studies have found, that seniors who regularly engaged in exercise were less likely to develop Alzheimer’s. According to the Ontario Brain Institute, seniors who were physically active were nearly 40 percent less likely to develop Alzheimer’s.
The best part is that the activity doesn’t have to be intense. Gardening, brisk walks, and cleaning the house can all count towards the recommended 150 minutes of exercise per week. The scientists who ran the study found that one in seven cases of Alzheimer’s could be prevented with regular exercise. Light to moderate physical activity was also found to improve the overall quality of senior health, and decrease their risk for depression. The University of Maryland has also recently examined the benefits of physical activity. They learned that both people with mild cognitive problems and healthy brain functions experienced an improvement in memory performance, and the efficiency of their brain cells with as little as a 10 percent increase in their fitness levels.
To measure the success of exercise in improving brain health and memory, the researchers placed inactive adults between the ages of 60 to 88 on a 12-week exercise program that focused on regularly walking on a treadmill. They then asked participants to identify from a list of celebrity names such as Frank Sinatra, who would be well known to adults born in the 1930s or 40s. Brain scans were used to measure the amount of brain activity needed to correctly identify a name. The researchers found that exercising decreased the intensity of activity that the brain required, in order to correctly pick out the famous names.
According to lead researcher Dr. J. Carson Smith at the University of Maryland, the study found that “after 12 weeks of being on a moderate exercise program, study participants improved their neural efficiency – basically they were using fewer neural resources to perform the same memory task. No study has shown that a drug can do what we showed is possible with exercise.”
No matter your age, it’s important to stay active. Find an activity you love, grab a friend, and enjoy all of the health benefits that come along with it.