The physical health benefits of daily exercise are well known, weight loss, improved strength, energy, etc. But did you know that physical exercise can also improve your mental well-being?
According to a recent study, people who are physically active are less likely to experience a decline in their mental function and have a lowered risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.
The study found that exercising at least 30 minutes a day, five times a week, will help to:
- Keep thinking, reasoning, and learning skills sharp for healthy individuals.
- Improve memory, reasoning, judgment, and thinking skills (cognitive function) for people with mild Alzheimer’s disease or mild cognitive impairment.
- Delay the start of Alzheimer’s for people at risk of developing the disease or slow the progress of the disease.
Physical activity seems to help the brain not only by keeping your blood flowing but also by increasing the chemicals that protect the brain. Physical activity also tends to counter some of the natural reduction in brain connections that occurs with aging.
More research is needed to know to what degree adding physical activity improves memory or slows the progression of cognitive decline. Nonetheless, regular exercise is important to stay physically and mentally fit.
Can Exercise Help When Dementia is Already Diagnosed?
In addition to possibly staving off cognitive issues such as Alzheimer’s Dementia, there is also some evidence that it can help slow progression and improve memory in those already diagnosed with the condition.
At the annual Alzheimer’s Association International Conference, scientists reported some encouraging news about the benefits of exercise. In the first studies to look at physical activity among people already diagnosed with the early stages of Alzheimer’s, moderate to high-intensity workouts may not only slow down the biological symptoms of Alzheimer’s —but may lead to improvements in cognitive functions as well.
It was found that test subjects with the milder disease who exercised at a moderate to intense level actually did perform better on intellectual skills after the 16 weeks.
They were tested on memory, language, mental speed, and other executive functions. Aerobic exercise significantly increased blood flow in the memory and processing centers of participants’ brains, with a corresponding improvement in attention, planning, and organizing abilities referred to as “executive function.”