Exercise trims dementia risk

Studies have shown exercise can keep your memory sharp but recent findings in BMC Public Health sought to find how much of sweat seniors need to work up. (Hint: ambling through the park doesn't cut it.)

“The moderate-to-vigorous intensity part is important,” says lead author Kathleen Martin Ginis, PhD, professor of health and exercise science at the University of British Columbia in Canada to Real Simple magazine. “You can’t just go for a leisurely stroll. You do have to be pushing it, getting a little out of breath so it’s challenging to talk to the person next to you.”

A team of researchers reviewed more than 150 articles on Alzheimer’s disease prevention and symptom management. They found seniors who are physically active are significantly less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease compared to people who are sedentary. Exercise can also improve mobility, balance and performance of daily activities for people with Alzheimer’s disease. 

Of note, most reviewed articles focused on adults with early-stage Alzheimer’s who could go for a walk or maintain a regular exercise routine. Martin Ginis acknowledges exercise can be a challenge for people with advanced dementia.

Researchers developed a toolkit to help older adults stay safe and get the types of exercise they needed, which is available on the Ontario Brain Institute’s website.

Martin Ginis recommends seniors follow the current physical activity guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That means older adults who are fit and healthy should get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensive aerobic activity (such as brisk walking) every week and muscle-strengthening activities on two or more days. That moderate-intensity activity can be swapped for 75 minutes of vigorous-intensive aerobic activity such as jogging or running. Or, a combination of the two.

Topics: Alzheimer's/Dementia