Keeping Your Brain Active
Dementia, we’ve all heard about it and many of us have known someone who had it. Developing dementia is a concern for many people, especially as they age. This is a widespread disease, with the Alzheimer’s Association (2019) highlighting that approximately one in three older adults due from Alzheimer’s disease or some other form of dementia.
Most of us know that there is a genetic component to whether or not we develop dementia. But is there anything that we can do to decrease our likelihood of getting it?
The good news
The good news is that we have some control. No, we can’t change whether our genes predispose us or not. But certain lifestyle changes can make a big difference in our chances of developing dementia.
The biggest help
Amidst the countless brain foods and memory supplements, one of the biggest things we can do to help lessen our chances of developing dementia is exercise.
Working it out
Exercise, especially aerobic exercise, has been found to increase the size of the hippocampus--which is an area of the brain responsible for verbal memory and learning (1). More surprising, a systematic review found that compared to the least active group, the most active group experienced a 28% reduction in the risk of developing dementia and a 45% reduction in the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease (2).
Do those results surprise you?
While there are several factors play a role in a person’s risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease or any other form of dementia, it seems like regular physical activity can serve as a major protective factor.
With this information, know that regular exercise does not definitively mean that you are guaranteed to not develop dementia, nor does it mean that not exercising regularly will cause you to develop dementia.
The main takeaway of this information is that in addition to the numerous commonly understood benefits of exercise, regular physical exercise can significantly benefit memory and potentially ward off dementia.
Want to start exercising but don’t know how to fit it into your schedule? Check out our blog to learn more!
1. Godman, H. (2018, April 05). Regular exercise changes the brain to improve memory, thinking skills. Harvard Health Publishing. Retrieved from https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/regular-exercise-changes-brain-improve-memory-thinking-skills-201404097110
2. Hamer, M., & Chida, Y. (2009). Physical activity and risk of neurodegenerative disease: A systematic review of prospective evidence. Psychological Medicine, 39(1), 3-11. doi:10.1017/S0033291708003681