Does exercise reduce risk of dementia?
Investigations into the link between exercise and dementia are ongoing. Although there has been no concise evidence from randomized trials, a number of studies have indicated that physical activity is related to a lower risk of dementia and cognitive decline in mid and late life.
High physical activity participants “immune” to dementia caused by short sleep
June 2018, Journal of the American Geriatrics Society:
• The study linked both short and long sleep duration to dementia. Participants with short sleep duration who had high physical activity did not have the same risk of dementia.
High cardiovascular fitness women 90% less likely to develop dementia
March 2018, Neurology:
• The exercise and dementia study showed that middle-aged women with *high cardiovascular fitness* were almost 90 PERCENT less likely to develop dementia later in life than women who had a *moderate cardiovascular fitness*.
• Not only that, but if in the event that the *high cardiovascular fitness women* did develop the dementia, they generally developed it 11 YEARS LATER than the moderately fit women.
Why does exercise reduce risk of dementia?
Physical exercise counteracts many of its risk factors of dementia
• People who engage in regular exercise have a lower risk of stroke and heart diseases.
• Exercise helps to regulate blood pressure.
• It helps to protect against obesity and Type 2 diabetes also.
• Exercise is also associated with a slower loss of cerebral tissue as one ages. This may be connected to the fact that exercise increases blood flow to the brain.
How much exercise to reduce risk of dementia?
Helena Horder, author of the recent Swedish study and researcher at the Centre for Aging and Health at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden recommends to follow the WHO´s global recommendations on general physical activity in order to reduce risk of dementia.
If we look at these then, our best bet would be to adhere by the “additional health benefits” guideline.
5-17 years old – Greater than 60 mins every day
• Moderate to vigorous activity greater than 60 minutes every day. (Greater than 1 HOUR)
• Most of this should be aerobic.
• Should include exercises that strengthen muscle and bone, at least 3 times per week.
18-64 years old – 5 hours moderate or 2.5 hours vigorous per week
• Moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity of 300 minutes per week (5 HOURS)
OR engage in 150 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity per week. (2.5 HOURS)
OR an equivalent combination of moderate- and vigorous-intensity activity.
• Should be performed in bouts of at least 10 minutes daily.
• Muscle-strengthening activities should be done involving major muscle groups on 2 or more days a week.
65 years & above – 5 hours moderate or 2.5 hours vigorous per week
• Moderate intensity aerobic physical activity of 300 minutes per week (5 HOURS)
OR engage in 150 minutes of vigorous intensity aerobic physical activity per week (2.5 HOURS)
OR an equivalent combination of moderate- and vigorous intensity activity.
• Those poor mobility should choose activity to enhance balance and prevent falls on 3 or more days per week.
• Muscle-strengthening activities should be done involving major muscle groups, on 2 or more days a week.
• If not possible to do the recommended amounts of physical activity due to health conditions, then should as physically active as their abilities and conditions allow.
What else does the Dementia and Exercise Research say?
1. Higher levels of cardiorespiratory fitness linked to better executive function performance.
Ding et al. 2018 studied the association of cardiorespiratory fitness with white matter fibre integrity and cognitive performance in normal adults and patients with mild cognitive impairment (MCI). Eighty-one participants (age = 65±7 years took part in the study. Conclusions drawn was that higher levels of cardiorespiratory fitness are associated with better WM fiber integrity, which in turn is correlated with better executive function performance.
2. Lower cardiovascular fitness linked to increased risk of dementia and cognitive impairment in later life.
Nyberg et al. 2014 sought to investigate the association between individual cardiovascular fitness and risk of early onset dementia in later life. 1.1 million Swedish males were involved in the study. Objective data on cardiovascular fitness and cognitive performance were collected during conscription exams and were subsequently linked with hospital registries to calculate later risk of early-onset dementia and mild cognitive impairment using Cox proportional hazards models controlling for several confounders. Results obtained from the study showed that lower cardiovascular fitness was associated with an increased risk of dementia and cognitive impairment in later life.
Exercise with enhanced cognitive benefits?
Certain forms of exercise that involve simultaneous mental and physical exerti3n have been shown to have additional benefits for the brain.
Final notes – Exercise & Dementia
Doctors & Researchers are now producing dementia exercise guidelines as an approach for managing mild cognitive impairment
Recently, the American Academy of Neurology released guidelines for mild cognitive impairment — a stage at which symptoms have not clinically progressed to a high level but indicates the individual is at high risk for developing dementia. For the first time, the group recommended physical activity as an approach for managing mild cognitive impairment.
Still need for more research
More research is being carried out to better understand the relationship between exercise and dementia. In the meantime, regular exercise very much recommended as a key strategy for maintaining good health and as a way to keep the brain healthy and to reduce cognitive decline.
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