In my last post I discussed the positive impact of exercise on brain structure and function. For those of you who are constantly on the lookout for something to help with your motivation to exercise, I have more good news: Research suggests that regular exercise is also associated with a delay in onset of Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias.
Mild cognitive impairment (MCI) is a term used to describe the intermediate stage between normal aging and dementia. People diagnosed with MCI progress to dementia at a higher rate than their peers in the general population. One population-based study found that people, who do any frequency of moderate exercise in midlife or late life, are more than 40% less likely to have MCI than those who do not exercise. These results even held up when age, sex, education, medical comorbidity and depression were taken into account.
Another observational study of over 18.000 women showed that higher levels of regular exercise were similar in extent to being about 3 years younger (cognitively) and associated with 20% lower risk of cognitive impairment.
In a study of 1740 individuals 65 years and older who were followed for 6 years, the incidence of dementia was 35% lower among those who exercised 3 or more times a week than among those who exercised less.
There are hundreds of intricate research articles on the positive aspects of physical exercise on almost every aspect of our health and I have read a considerable amount of them. Why then is it still so hard for many of us to find time to exercise? For me the afternoons are totally off, they reserved for driving the kids to all the leisure activities intended to ensure that they don’t get bored even a minute of their lives, heaven forbid. Then there is homework, laundry, cooking and all the rest of the never-ending fun stuff. I have heard of people who wake up at 6 in the mornings to work out, but I am sure that’s a myth – come on folks, who would pull themselves up in the middle of the night to slave away at the treadmill?
Excuses, excuses … regular exercise is really not a choice if we want to keep our brain agile.
Here is a video from Youtube.com where University of Kansas Alzheimer’s Disease Center’s Jeff Burns, MD discusses exercise and the brain:
-Geda, Y. E., Roberts, R. O., Knopman, D. S., Christianson, T. J. H., Pankratz, V. S., Ivnik, R. J. o.fl. (2010). Physical exercise, aging, and mild cognitive Impairment: A population-based study. Archives of Neurology, 67 (1), 80-86.
-Hamer, M. og Chida, Y. (2009). Physical activity and risk of neurodegenerative disease: a systematic review of prospective evidence. Psychological Medicine, 39 (1), 3-11.
-Petersen, R. C. (2005). MCI as a useful clinical concept. Geriatric Times, V (1), 30-36.
-Weuve, J., Kang, J. H., Manson, J. E., Breteler, M. M. B., Ware, J. H. og Grodstein, F. (2004). Physical activity, including walking, and cognitive function in older women. JAMA: The Journal of the American Medical Association, 292 (12), 1454-1461.