Maintaining Brain Health

Physcial Exercise

  • Regular physical exercise has many known benefits including improving the heart conditions, strengthening the bones and muscles, and reducing stress. It also appears to reduce the risk of various cognitively affection conditions. Some study suggests that a regular physical exercise reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer's disease (AD).

    In a population-based case-control study from the Mayo Clinic, the risk of developing mild cognitive impairment was reduced by about 40% for persons who engaged in moderate exercise (30-60 minutes per session to the point of getting short of breath or sweaty, 3 or more times weekly) during midlife (age range, 50-65 years), and was reduced by about 30% during late life. Light exercise was not significantly associated with decreased risk of developing mild cognitive impairment.

    A population-based case-control study of 31 years duration from Sweden compared hardly any exercise to light exercise, such as gardening or walking, and regular exercise involving sports. Light exercise reduced AD and dementia risk by 40%, and regular exercise reduced AD and dementia risk by almost 70%. The risk reduction attributed to exercise was controlled for effects of age, sex, education, diet (eating fruits and vegetables), smoking, drinking alcohol, body mass index, and angina.

    In a prospective, 2-year study of a representative rural community sample from Pennsylvania (N = 1,146) aged 65 years and older, the relation between 3 exercise levels and risk of cognitive decline was examined. The 3 exercise levels were: "high exercise" (aerobic exercise of 30 or more minutes duration at least 3 times a week), "low exercise" (all other exercise groups), and "no exercise." The high exercise group was 60% less likely to be in the group that showed the greatest cognitive decline over this 2 year study.

    Recommended exercises include but are not limited to swimming, cycling, jogging, skiing, aerobic dancing, and walking, at least 30-60 minutes several times a week. These exercises increase your blood flow to the brain, also increase chemicals that protect the brain and aid in the development of new brain cells. Although more research is needed to know to what degree adding physical activity improves memory or slows the progression of cognitive decline, regular exercise is important to stay physically and mentally fit.