Researchers at Boston University looked at data from an ongoing heart health study in the U.S. to analyze the effects of exercise on dementia risk. They discovered people who do more physical activity tend to have a slower brain aging process and have a lower chance of developing dementia later in life.
Moreover, every additional hour could remove another year off someone’s brain age. Therefore, someone doing three hours of exercise every week could, over time, maintain a brain three years younger than the average for their age.
The researchers also found that doing any exercise, even if it is as light as walking, could be enough to build up and provide benefits -- as long as it is done regularly. Low-intensity exercises that could get the heart, lungs, and muscles working harder are all beneficial.
“Every additional hour of light-intensity physical activity was associated with higher brain volumes, even among individuals not meeting current physical activity guidelines,” explained Dr. Nicole Spartano, one of the researchers of the study.
While it was not clear how much exercise should be done for optimal protection against dementia, the researchers suggested doing at least 250 minutes of physical activity every week. The researchers said that these findings are consistent with the notion that potential benefits of exercise on brain aging may build up at a lower, more achievable level of intensity.
Exercise affects the brain in ways – both directly and indirectly – that protect memory and thinking. For one, researchers at the University of British Columbia found that regular aerobic exercise can increase the size of the hippocampus, which is the area of the brain responsible for verbal memory and learning.
Exercise also reduces insulin resistance, fights inflammation, and stimulates the release of growth factors, which are chemicals in the brain that influence the health of brain cells, the growth of new blood vessels in the brain, and even the number and survival of new brain cells. Exercise can also improve mood and sleep, as well as relieves stress and anxiety. Problems in these aspects are typically the cause or contributors to cognitive decline.
Have no idea where to start being more physically active? Here are some easy, no-effort exercises that you can add to your daily routine:
For more news on brain protection and dementia prevention, visit Dementia.news.