Exercise: The Key to Preventing Dementia

In August 2012, Dementia was designated as a National Health Priority Area. In 2015 there’s an estimated 342,800 people with Dementia in Australia – a figure predicted to triple by 2050 (AIHW 2012). Before we get lost in the statistics, do you know what Dementia actually is?  People are quick to throw the term around when they’ve lost their keys, or forgotten to pick up the dry cleaning, but for those suffering, it’s so much more than that.

Dementia describes a collection of symptoms that are caused by disorders affecting the brain. It is not one specific disease. Dementia affects thinking, behaviour and the ability to perform everyday tasks. Brain function is affected enough to interfere with the person’s normal social or working life. It is also an umbrella term for over 100 actual different diseases!

How is exercise the key?  It is your brain’s hippocampus, the memory centre, that is particularly adaptable and capable of growing new cells throughout your entire lifetime, even into your 90s, provided you give it the tools to do so!  For example, one year-long study found that adults who exercised were actually enlarging their brains’ memory centres by one to two percent per year, where typically that centre declines in size with age.

Recent Research

Recent research is showing that there’s overwhelming evidence that exercise produces large cognitive gains and helps fight dementia. Research has shown that exercise helps protect your brain by:

• Improving and increasing blood flow to your brain.
• Increasing production of nerve-protecting compounds.
• Improving development and survival of neurons.
• Altering the way damaging proteins reside inside your brain, which appear to slow the development of Alzheimer’s disease.

Which modality of exercise is best? A combination of aerobic and strength training is more effective than aerobic-only training in slowing cognitive and motor decline in patients with dementia. A program that leans more heavily to strength training is even better, as a recent study showed that participants who completed six months of weight training showed significant improvements in overall cognitive function, in particular with abilities related to planning, organising and devising strategies, plus visual memory. These improvements were still present twelve months after supervised training stopped.

If you or someone you know has been diagnosed with Dementia or you want to prevent the onset, (prevention is key!) then now is the time to book in with Optimum to begin your Dementia Prevention Program!

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