Active Lifestyle Wards Off Dementia
If you need any more motivation for not being a "desk potato" all day and a "couch potato" in the evening, here are four – count 'em, four! – new studies that point to exercise as a way to prevent Alzheimer's and other types of cognitive decline.
The quartet of research papers was presented on Sunday, July 15th at the Alzheimer's Association International Conference 2012 in Vancouver. All of them cited the ability of targeted exercise training to promote improved mental functioning and reduced risk for cognitive impairment and dementia in cognitively healthy older adults and those with mild cognitive impairment. According to a release from the association, the reports from 6- and 12-month randomized controlled clinical trials depicted the beneficial effects of resistance training, aerobic training, and balance-stretching training on brain structure, functional neural plasticity, growth factors, and risk factors for cognitive decline such as depression and poor sleep quality.
The release quoted William Thies PhD, Alzheimer's Association Chief Medical and Scientific Officer, as saying "Currently, the strongest data for lifestyle-based Alzheimer's risk reduction is for physical activity, yet this data is generally observational and considered preliminary. These new intervention studies are taking place over longer periods of time to begin to clarify exactly which types of physical activity are most effective, how much needs to be done, and for how long. In particular, where previously we had seen positive associations between aerobic activity, particularly walking, and cognitive health, these latest studies show that resistance training is emerging as particularly valuable for older adults."
To take advantage of these findings, you could head to the gym to use strength training machines, or you could simply do pushups and use a resistance band and bar bells at home. Bonus: You'll be getting all the physical perks of these activities as well as helping your brain stay in good shape!