Want to maintain your memory?
Then take a 20-minute walk - every day. A recent study (1) showed that it made a big difference to the faltering memories in a group of people aged over 50. After just 6 months of doing an extra 20 minutes of daily exercise (in addition to the exercise that they normally did), a group of adults experiencing slight losses in memory and verbal fluency saw good improvements.
The exercise didn't have to be terribly taxing - walking, swimming and ballroom dancing were all effective. After the study ended, the improvements lasted for between 12 and 18 months. The researchers also suggest that exercise may help delay Alzheimer's in people who are at risk - those who have mild cognitive decline. Indeed, this was confirmed by a Japanese study during 2015. (2)
A 2016 study confirmed that exercise improves the memory and protects against Alzheimer's disease and other neuropathies. (3)
The researchers were not sure how exercise improves the mind, but suggested that the boost in blood flow nourishes brain tissue and stimulates the generation of new neurons, synapses, and blood vessels.
A meta-analysis of studies published in 2017 found that two and a half hours of exercise each week cuts the chances of depression and dementia by a third. (4) Another long term study of Swedish women found that those with high cardiovascular fitness (stamina) had a staggering 88% lower risk of dementia than those who were moderately fit. (5)
In Grow Youthful I discuss how exercise can also relieve stress and depression. It is an important detoxification mechanism, helping to clean out your body and prevent the build-up of toxins, including in your brain.
1. Lautenschlager, N. T. et al.
Effect of physical activity on cognitive function in older adults at risk for Alzheimer disease: a randomized trial.
Journal of the American Medical Association 2008 Sep 3;300(9):1027-1037.
2. Kazuki Hyodo, Ippeita Dan, Yasushi Kyutoku, Kazuya Suwabe, Kyeongho Byun, Genta Ochi, Morimasa Kato, Hideaki Soya. The association between aerobic fitness and cognitive function in older men mediated by frontal lateralization. NeuroImage, Volume 125, 15 January 2016, Pages 291-300.
3. Raji CA, Merrill DA, Eyre H, Mallam S, Torosyan N, Erickson KI, Lopez OL, Becker JT, Carmichael OT, Gach HM, Thompson PM, Longstreth WT, Kuller LH. Longitudinal Relationships between Caloric Expenditure and Gray Matter in the Cardiovascular Health Study. J Alzheimers Dis. 11 March 2016, viewed online.
4. Joseph Michael Northey, Nicolas Cherbuin, Kate Louise Pumpa, Disa Jane Smee, Ben Rattray. Exercise interventions for cognitive function in adults older than 50: a systematic review with meta-analysis. Br J Sports Med Published Online First: 24 April 2017. doi: 10.1136/bjsports-2016-096587.
5. Helena Horder, Lena Johansson, XinXin Guo, Gunnar Grimby, Silke Kern, Svante Ostling, Ingmar Skoog. Midlife cardiovascular fitness and dementia: A 44-year longitudinal population study in women. Neurology, 14 March 2018. DOI: 10.1212/WNL.0000000000005290.