You are already aware of the benefits of aerobic exercise for your overall health. But you might be surprised to know the benefits of exercise for dementia. Did you know exercise can slow the progression of the disease and help you manage its symptoms?
Dementia affects your brain’s ability to think, reason, and remember. Any form of physical activity, such as walking, running, or yoga, can significantly boost brain power in adults with cognitive impairment. No, exercise does not mean you must spend hours in the gym. Even a moderately intensive form of exercise that raises your heart rate and increases your body’s need for oxygen can be as effective. Experts recommend making exercise an integral part of your daily regimen to boost brain health. Any form of physical activity that leaves you breathless can strengthen memory and the thinking power in people aged 50 years and above.
What Does Research Say About Benefits of Aerobic Exercise for Dementia
A study conducted by Mayo Clinic examined the role of aerobic exercise and resistance training in improving mental health and brain function in Alzheimer’s or dementia patients. Researchers found that moderate or vigorous physical activity improved the brain ability to process information. While aerobic exercises, such as walking, running, or swimming, enhance cognitive ability and improve brain volume, resistance training has a marked effect on the memory. Those unable to indulge in any vigorous form of activity can benefit from regular sessions of yoga and tai chi.
However, it not clear what is the amount of exercises one needs to prevent cognitive impairment.
An analysis shows that a session of moderate to vigorous intensity exercise lasting 45-60 minutes can help keep your brain healthy as you age. However, in order to reap the benefits of physical activity, it is recommended that the exercise is moderately intensive that raises your heart rate to about 60%.
Some researchers opine that exercise has a favorable effect on brain integrity and improves cognitive functioning. They believe that regular physical activity may help preserve the brain’s network connectivity involved in recalling past events and daydreaming. There are significant cognitive effects of aerobic exercise on humans:
- Reduces subsequent risk of dementia
- Reduces the risk of mild cognitive decline or impairment
- Improves brain connectivity
- Increases volumes of the hippocampus and the brain cortex
Other Benefits of Aerobic Exercise for Dementia
Can Alzheimer’s and dementia be prevented? Well, this question continues to intrigue researchers. However, scientific research is yet to prove that dementia can be reversed. Studies reveal that men who walk the least have a higher risk of cognitive decline compared to those who follow an exercise regimen.
Another research study reports that a moderate exercise of about 50 minutes at least three times a week is effective in enhancing cognition in normal elderly people and those who complained of memory difficulty.
Another study indicates that physical activity affects growth factors and reduces peripheral factors, including hypertension, diabetes, and heart disease. Researchers suggest that exercise helps reduce inflammation and improve the brain function.
Other potential benefits of an exercise regimen include the following.
- Improves the health of heart and blood vessels
- Reduces the risk of cancer, type 2 diabetes, and coronary heart disease and stroke
- Strengthens muscles
- Builds flexible joints that reduce the risk of joint injury as you age
- Helps keep bones strong, thus reducing the risk of bone diseases, such as osteoporosis, breakage, and fracture
- Improves memory and cognitive ability
- Improves sleep
- Reduces the risk of falls and fracture by improving balance
All in all, regular aerobic exercise enhances physical fitness and protects cells, while having a positive change in brain metabolism. It is beneficial for the prevention of dementia and cognitive impairment. Any aerobic activity that accelerates the heart rate while increasing your body’s need for oxygen could help reduce the risk of slow cognitive decline or dementia in the elderly.