In the past five years, a fair amount of promising discoveries have been made about the onset of dementia. One of the most promising methods for helping to preserve the function of the brain may have to do with how little amounts of physical activity can help to improve brain health.
New research among the elderly indicates that even low amounts of physical activity could help to lead to enough brain protection to either halt or reverse dementia.
While some of the factors that may cause the onset of dementia are unavoidable (namely genetics) this new research shows the power of physical exercise in helping to prevent the disease.
The Alzheimer’s Association Reports
A study appearing in the journal Neurology revealed it doesn’t take much to boost the chances a person’s brain doesn’t atrophy and lose function.
A slight bit of exercise, even simple exercise like sweeping, or scrubbing, may be enough to form a protective barrier around the brain, even for individuals who are geriatric in age.
A team of researchers from Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, IL decided to see how exercise might help protect the brain by studying 454 older adults. Almost half of the group they studied (191) already exhibited signs of dementia.
At the time of their death, all of the study participants agreed the scientists could analyze their brains to see how the onset of dementia progressed as they aged.
“Every year for 2 decades, each person underwent a full physical examination, along with a test, to determine their thinking and memory skills.
The scientists gave all the volunteers an activity-monitoring device called an accelerometer around 2 years before each of them died. They wore it on the wrist, and it tracked any activity at all times — be it vigorous physical exercise or simply walking around the house.
The scientists used 7 days’ worth of these data to calculate an average daily activity score for each person. The average of the entire group of people was 160,000 counts per day.
However, those who had dementia averaged a daily count of 130,000, while those without the condition had a higher average count of 180,000.
This led the researchers to conclude that more daily movement is linked to better memory and thinking abilities. Higher levels of motor skills were also linked with better abilities in these areas.
Also, more specifically, people were 31 percent less likely to develop dementia for every standard deviation of increase in physical activity. The same deviation increase in motor skills equated to a person being 55 percent less likely to develop dementia.
After death, specialists examined each participant’s brain for lesions and biomarkers of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. The researchers adjusted results based on the severity of any brain lesions.
Despite that, the links between physical activity and dementia and motor skills and dementia remained. Alzheimer’s disease biomarkers appeared to have no effect on the results.”
While this study is supportive of the claim surrounding physical activity’s benefits of brain health, it does not mean that a lack of physical activity will lead to dementia.
As lead researcher, Dr. Aron S. Buchman said, “it is important to note that our study does not show cause and effect.”
He adds, “It may also be possible that as people lose memory and thinking skills, they reduce their physical activity. More studies are needed to determine if moving more is truly beneficial to the brain.”