Dementia: How Exercise Can Benefit an Aging Brain

In aging population, one of the major threats they face is dementia. Besides affecting their quality of life, it also affects immediate family, where spouses or children become caregivers. Exercise is beneficial for physical and mental health and may improve the quality life of people in all stages of the condition. Studies suggest that aerobic exercise can help reduce the risk of cognitive impairment as it can reduce vascular risk factors.

Physical Activity

Physical activity is an important part of any overall body wellness plan and is known to lower risk of cognitive decline. Living a physically active lifestyle can have a significant impact on the wellbeing of people with dementia.

Aerobic exercise can reduce vascular risk factors. Doing moderate-intensity physical exercise lowers cognitive risks and slowing cognitive decline across the age spectrum.

The protective effect of physical activity on cognitive function is associated with maintaining good cerebrovascular supply to the brain through blood flow and oxygen as well as through direct endocrine mechanisms.

It is suggested that as long as it’s safe, people should engage in cardiovascular exercise to increase heart rate. This will then increase blood flow to different areas of the body including the brain, providing enough nourishment while reducing dementia risk factors such as high blood pressure, diabetes and high cholesterol.

Benefits of Exercise

On Brain Function

Regular aerobic exercise, the kind that get your heart and sweat glands pumping, can boost the size of the hippocampus, the area of the brain involved in verbal memory and learning.

In a 2010 study, it was shown that older adults who participated in resistance training twice weekly had improved brain functions which lasted for at least a year after training had stopped. These changes included memory recall, time duration or cognitive response and ability to follow instructions.

On Personality and Mood

An active lifestyle likely protects the brain by stimulating neurotrophins, which promote neural growth and survival. Exercise can alleviate chronic depression by increasing mood-boosting serotonin or brain-derived neurotrophic factor. Exercise can also help normalise sleep, which can have protective effects on the brain.

In a psychological aspect, exercise can improve a depressed person’s outlook. You tend to feel sense of accomplishment doing something that is good for you. Physical activity can moderate your response to stress. Exercise can be a way of toughening up your brain which makes you less affected to stress.

In a 2014 study, it was shown that increased activity including walking and dancing improved self-esteem and mood and decreased negative distracting thoughts in people with mild to moderate depressive symptoms associated with dementia. The study also showed that exercise can reduce the need for medication with has potential side effects.

Exercise is important for your body to ensure the health of your brain. It’s not just about the amount of exercise you do daily. There has to be a good blood pressure, normal cholesterol levels and a healthy weight. Always keep in mind that what’s good for your heart is also good for your brain.