Move It or Lose It! Exercise Lowers Risk for Dementia

Spring seems to be slow arriving this year after a particularly harsh winter in many parts of the country but whether you are out enjoying nature waking after a long hibernation or hitting the gym, cardiovascular fitness is more important that ever, especially to support healthy aging.

A recent Swedish study, published in the journal Neurology, tracked the fitness of a group of 191 women over a span of 44 years; the effects exercise had on the risk for developing dementia was significant.  Only 5 per cent of the fittest of the women participating in the study developed dementia and 11 years later than other study participants who measured a low or medium fitness score.   Thirty two per cent of women with low exercise capacity and 25 per cent of women with a medium level of fitness were found to develop dementia in their lives.

The long-term study helps to support other evidence that physical fitness is important, especially in older age.  Staying active not only may slow or prevent cognitive decline as we age, it is important to maintain function, prevent falls and remain independent for as long as possible.

As with any new exercise program or diet, it’s important to talk first with your doctor and gradually increase intensity and duration over time.  According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, older adults need at least 150 minutes (2 1/2 hours) of moderate-intensity aerobic activity each week.  This could include brisk walking, cycling, dancing or swimming and it is recommended that on two or more days of the week, muscle-strengthening activities should also be included.  If you are beginning from a low fitness capacity, try starting with 10 minutes of exercise at a time; some activity is always better than none. 

To learn more about the benefits of physical activity for healthy aging, follow this link to the CDC website.