We recently told readers about a study that found social isolation to increase the rate of cognitive decline in older subjects. Today we are reporting on another study, this time on the impact of physical activity on the onset of dementia. Not surprisingly, the results suggest that exercise and movement help maintain brain health during the aging process.
This is helpful news to our clients who care for older loved ones. Family members, guardians and others who support elderly people can assist their relatives and protected persons to find ways to engage in activities that will help their mental health and slow mental decline.
The author of the study, detailed at an article reached through the first link above, explains that as people get older, “physical activity may reduce the risk of cognitive decline and dementia.” Specifically, the study suggests that movement and activity can help to prevent and slow normal brain shrinkage associated with aging and increased Alzheimer’s risk.
Even activities like swimming, dancing, walking and gardening appeared to keep brains larger than those of more sedentary subjects in the study. Especially protected through physical activity is the size of the hippocampus, which is a center for memory.
Subjects were either very active, moderately active or inactive and were subject to brain scans. The average difference in brain size between the high activity group and the inactive group was equivalent to “about four years of normal brain aging.”
While the study showed association between activity and brain size, it “could not prove cause and effect.” But, the author concluded that the results add to other evidence that more activity may protect against brain shrinkage.