A new study suggests that getting regular aerobic exercise, such as walking, may be one of the best ways to help prevent Alzheimer’s and other onset dementia in seniors. The findings from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences show that among more than 100 older adults, those who exercised several times a week benefitted from age-reversing effects beyond cardiovascular health, mainly in boosting their hippocampal volume and size. This is key because the hippocampus naturally shrinks in late adulthood which leads to memory problems and an increased risk of developing dementia.
Neuroscientist Art Kramer, an author of the study, took MRI scans the brains of 120 older adults. He found that those who participated in moderate aerobic exercise — just 45 minutes at a time three days a week, mostly walking — saw an average increase of 2 percent in the volume of their brains after a year, reported NPR. And those who didn’t exercise actually lost brain volume — about 1.5 percent on average.
In another article, neuroscientist Peter Snyder told NPR that evidence supports that moderate aerobic exercise is one of the best things older adults can do to maintain mental sharpness.
“What we’re finding is that of all of these noninvasive ways of intervening, it is exercise that seems to have the most efficacy at this point ” more so than nutritional supplements, vitamins and cognitive interventions,” Snyder told NPR. “What we find is that with exercise ” with aerobic exercise, a moderate amount on a regular basis ” there are chemical changes that occur in the brain that promote the growth of new neurons” in the hippocampus.
With a rapidly aging U.S. population and also taking into account that more than half of people over the age of 85 already have some form of dementia, boosting one’s workout regimen should be, well, a no-brainer.
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