Safeguard your memory with exercise

A new study has shone the spotlight on the importance of exercise in reducing the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

According to Alzheimer’s Australia, three in ten people in Australia over the age of 85 and almost one in ten people over 65 have dementia. Furthermore, an estimated 1.2 million people are involved in the care of a person with dementia.

Dementia is the second leading cause of death in Australia, and regrettably there is currently no cure. As Dr Cyrus Raji of the University of California explains, ‘We have no magic bullet cure for Alzheimer’s disease. Our focus needs to be on prevention.’ Interventions therefore focus on prevention through lifestyle management.

In an effort to find out more about the effect of aerobic exercise on the brain, researchers from the University of California Medical Centre, and from the University of Pittsburgh, examined a group of 876 patients enrolled in the 30-year Cardiovascular Health Study. The average age of participants was 78 years.

The researchers studied details of participants’ memory over time, as well as details about their physical activity habits, which ranged from activities such as gardening and dancing, to cycling on an exercise bike.

Brain scans using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) were also carried out, enabling the researchers to measure the volumes of those brain structures, such as the hippocampus, which are associated with memory and Alzheimer’s.

Results showed that the more physical activity an individual did, the larger the brain volumes in key parts of the brain, and specifically the frontal, temporal and parietal lobes, including the hippocampus. In addition, individuals whose brains benefited from physical activity had a 50 per cent lower risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.

Source: Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease