Written by: Janel Davis-Heitzmann PT, CSCS
A new study published in a January edition of Neurology had startling results regarding reducing the risk of dementia. The researchers were able to take a unique look into the impact of exercise on aging and the brain as all participants agreed to donate their brains for research after their death. The 454 adults were over the age of 70 when the study began and were given thinking and memory tests every year for 20 years. They wore accelerometers (similar to a Fitbit) which measured their physical activity and calculated an average daily score.
The findings showed that higher levels of daily movement were linked to better thinking and memory skills based on the yearly cognitive tests. When the brain tissue was analyzed, the findings were confirmed, even for individuals with at least three signs of Alzheimer’s disease. Dr. Aron Buckman, the lead researcher, says the new findings suggest that physical activity may be protective for the brain, even in the presence of Alzheimer’s.
While intense activity and exercise are beneficial, even light activity can make a difference. Dr. Buckman says, “as long as you have some activity and you are moving, whether you’re chopping onions, sweeping the floor, or running” you can reduce your risk of cognitive decline.