Dementia: Best exercises for staving off the brain condition proven in study

Dementia is an umbrella term to describe the progressive decline in brain functioning. A study has revealed the best exercises to keep the mind sharp.

Scientists from UT Southwestern Medical Centre, Texas, mapped out brain changes following one year of exercise training.

Published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, they gathered 30 participants.

All volunteers were aged 60 and above, and suffered from memory problems.


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Half of the group underwent 12 months of aerobic exercise training while the other half participated in stretches.

Exercise had been found to boost blood flow into two key regions of the brain associated with memory: the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) and the hippocampus.

Binu Thomas, the senior research scientists in neuro-imaging said: “Perhaps we can one day develop a drug or procedure that safely targets blood flow into these brain regions.”

Results revealed that the exercise group showed a 47 percent improvement in memory scores compared to the stretching group.

In addition, brain scans taken at the beginning of the study, and at the end, were compared in the exercise group.

At rest, the scans showed that the exercise group had an increased amount of blood flow to the brain by the end of that year.

Thomas added: “We’ve shown that even when your memory starts to fade, you can still do something about it by adding aerobic exercise to your lifestyle.”

So, what are really good forms of aerobic exercise – you know, the kind that gets you a bit out of breath?

The answer is a brisk walk or a bike ride that lasts for at least 30 minutes.

This is ideal considering the pandemic has encouraged people to get on their bikes, or walk, to work and local supermarkets.

Thomas’s research builds upon various other studies that have shown the benefits of exercising on a person’s memory.

For instance, one study involved 716 people with an average age of 82 years old.


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The people grouped in the “bottom 10 percent” did the least amount of physical activity.

Those in the “highest 10 percent” performed the most daily exercise.

The researchers found that those who did the least amount of exercise were twice as likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease compared to the “highest 10 percent”.

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia whereby plaques and tangles build up inside the brain.

These clumps disrupt how nerve cells work and communicate with one another, negatively impacting how someone functions.

The degenerative disease results in more issues with memory, reasoning, communication and orientation.

The official Alzheimer’s Society recognised how raising your heart rate can do wonders for your health.

The organisation said: “Of all the lifestyle changes that have been studied, taking regular physical exercise appears to be one of the best things that you can do to reduce your risk of getting dementia.”

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