Exercise has no upper age limit: Moving more in old age linked to sharper memory

Older adults who move more, either with daily exercise or even simple routine physical activity like housework, may preserve more of their memory and thinking skills, even if they have brain lesions or biomarkers linked to dementia, according to a study published in the January 16, 2019, online issue of Neurology.

The study examined 454 older adults; 191 had dementia and 263 did not. All participants were given physical exams and thinking and memory tests every year for 20 years. Participants agreed to donate their brains for research upon death. The average age at death was 91. The brain tissue was examined after death for lesions and biomarkers of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

The study found that people who had better motor skills had better thinking and memory skills compared to those who did not move much at all. For every increase in physical activity by one standard deviation (SD), participants were 31% less likely to develop dementia. For every increase in motor ability by 1 SD, participants were 55% less likely to develop dementia. This association was consistent in people who had dementia and people who did not.

Today, most of us are less physically active even though the benefits of exercise on physical health as well as mental health are known to us all. Lack of initiative or lack of safe open spaces may have contributed to this scenario. A heavy work schedule is often a deterrent to physical activity for many of us.

Walking is the best form of exercise, which requires no investment, no special training. Walking in natural environments such as parks also reduces mental stress and fatigue and improve mood via the release of the ‘feel good’ endorphins. This proximity to nature also helps in the inward spiritual journey and shifts one from the sympathetic to parasympathetic mode manifested by lowering of blood pressure and pulse rate

 

(Source: American Academy of Neurology News Release, Jan. 16, 2019)

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