I know I write about exercise a lot. But physical activity has so many profound health benefits I could write an entire book on the subject.
Take the results of two new studies, for example. They showed that any level of physical activity in midlife can ward off cognitive decline and dementia down the road.
Let me repeat that: ANY level of physical activity benefits your brain in later life. Mild, moderate, vigorous—you name it.
Healthy adults who were active in midlife were protected from cognitive impairment as they aged, as long as they had an exercise routine of any kind, whatsoever.
And it gets even better. To some extent, physical activity also seemed to prevent people who already exhibited some cognitive impairment from progressing into full blown dementia. And once again… ANY LEVEL of exercise made a positive impact.
Let’s take a look at some of the details from these studies.
In the first trial, researchers looked at more than 1,800 healthy adults with normal cognitive function.
This study defined mild exercise as leisurely walking—the kind of after-dinner stroll you can enjoy no matter shape you’re in. Brisk walking, cycling, and swimming were considered moderate exercise. Vigorous exercise, included activities like mountain biking and downhill skiing. (Neither of which I do, for the record. But it just goes to show you, your options are limitless.)
And exercise of all intensities lowered the risk of cognitive decline significantly.
Pretty impressive stuff for light walks around the block.
In the second study, researchers looked at nearly 300 subjects who had already suffered some memory loss.
In this instance, results only showed a statistically significant decrease in risk among subjects who maintained moderate exercise regimens in middle age. But the study authors were quick to point out that even lighter forms of activity offered positive results (even if they weren’t technically “statistically significant”).
So what all of this boils down to is this: Just by getting off the couch and doing something as simple as walking, you can actively prevent cognitive decline.
And if your memory is already failing, all you have to do is take up moderate exercise—brisk walking, biking, or swimming—to keep from losing your mind altogether. A little extra sweat is a small price to pay for a benefit like this, don’t you think?
So what are you still doing sitting in front of your computer? Get up, get outside, and take your dog for a walk! Or simply stroll around the block by yourself. Too hot or rainy out? Then head to your local mall and do a few laps there.
It doesn’t take much time to keep your brain from rotting. So whatever you do, do something— anything—every day. No excuses.
Alzheimer’s Association International Conference (AAIC) 2014. Abstract P2-149 and P2-153. Presented July 14, 2014.
Any Level of Midlife Exercise May Keep Dementia at Bay. Medscape. Jul 17, 2014.