Moderate exercise delays age-related memory decline

Studies show, and my experience with my patients concurs, that people, as they age, fear memory loss, in general, and Alzheimer’s, in particular, even more than cancer. To date, there’s been little that’s been shown to be effective to prevent age-related memory decline … that is until now. To prevent the loss, you’ll need to get off your butt and begin exercising. Here are the details:

The AP reported that, according to a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, “one year of moderate physical exercise can increase the size of the brain’s hippocampus in adults aged 55 and more, leading to an improvement in spatial memory.”

In fact, “walking three times a week may improve memory in older adults and help prevent mental decline as people age,” Bloomberg News explains. “The study of adults ages 55 and older found a two percent expansion of the hippocampus, the brain’s memory processor that can shrink during middle age, in those who walked 40 minutes, three times a week, for a year.”

The Los Angeles Times “Booster Shots” blog reported, “To complete the study, the team recruited 120 older people who didn’t exercise regularly. Half were randomly assigned to an aerobic exercise program, walking around a track three days a week for 40 minutes per session,” while “the other half embarked on a stretching-and-weights program.”

MRI scans revealed that “after 12 months, the group that walked showed an average 2% growth in the hippocampus compared with when they began, while the control groups suffered a more than 1% shrinkage in the same region compared with when the study started,” the Time “Healthland” blog noted.

HealthDay added, “MRI brain scans” also revealed that “those who showed the greatest improvements in memory also showed the greatest increases in hippocampal volume.”

According to the CNN “The Chart” blog, “The researchers also saw an increase in a molecule called BDNF, which affects learning and memory. Those people in the aerobic exercise group improved their memory performance from the beginning of the study.”

So, time to get out of the chair and begin more physical activity. To that end, I recommend these tips to increase your success:

  • Find a physical exercise you actually enjoy.
  • Start slow and slowly increase the time and intensity of your exercise.
  • Find someone you like to exercise with — it provides company and accountability.
  • If you can’t find someone to exercise with, then exercise to a music that you enjoy. It increases the enjoyment and performance of exercise.

Good luck!

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