In America alone, more than 5 million people are living with Alzheimer’s Disease, and that number is rising rapidly every single day. What many don’t realize is that according to Alzheimer’s Association, dementia is explained as a “general term for decline in mental ability sever enough to interfere with daily life.” Alzheimer’s, on the other hand, happens to be the most common cause of dementia.
To make it even easier to understand, alz.org shares that while Alzheimer’s refers to a specific disease, dementia is common term used to describe “symptoms like decline in memory, reasoning or other thinking skills.”
Although there is no cure for dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, there are ways to help you ward off this difficult disease’s horrible effects, with the easiest being exercise.
University of Pittsburgh’ Kirk Erickson, PhD, who presented his brain research at the International Conference on Nutrition and the Brain shares, “Dementia may not be an inevitable part of aging – in fact, well into late adulthood, the brain has the remarkable ability to continue to grow rather than atrophy.”
Dr. Erickson’s study, which was published back in 2012 in Archives of Medical Research, was completed after more than a decade, involving thousands of participants at that. Remarkably, they found that regular physical activity managed to help reduce the chances of getting dementia – which includes Alzheimer’s disease, by a staggering 50%.
So how exactly does exercise help protect someone from dementia? It’s actually due to the brain’s hippocampus and prefrontal cortex. Both are said to play dominant roles in memory formation and complex thinking, but when they deteriorate, they become forecasters for Alzheimer’s disease.
But the silver lining is that research has found that these areas are also quite responsive to physical exercise. And for those that have better and higher fitness levels also have increased sizes for both their prefrontal cortex and hippocampus. Simply, what this means is that exercise can actually help your brain to continuously grow, lessening the risk of the brain’s possible deterioration.
There was another study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences by Dr. Erickson and his team, which involved 120 sedentary adults between the ages of 60 and 70. They had one group do a bunch of aerobic exercises while another group did only stretching exercises, for an entire year. Dr. Erickson explains, “We saw an increase in brain volume, especially in the hippocampus, in the aerobic group and not in the other group.”
“This is evidence that moderate intensity exercise moved participants’ brains in the direction of growth instead of diminishment,” he adds. In fact, Dr. Erickson also says that it’s never too late to start exercising either. “The earlier you begin, the greater the protection for your brain – but exercise leads to improved brain function at any age.”
An added plus is that you don’t even have to work out for an entire hour to get the positive effects either. Dr. Erickson iterates, “Roughly 30 to 40 minutes of brisk walking several times a week will improve brain function and cognitive performance.” But there are even more benefits to be had from increasing the intensity of your workouts as well.
Dr. Erickson reiterates, “Research suggests that moderate intensity exercise is sufficient for improving your brain, but that more vigorous activity might have additional benefits. Further research is needed though to identify the effects from different intensity levels.”