A recent study shows that beginning an exercise program — even later in life — can still be incredibly beneficial for your health.
A study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, shows that regular physical exercise, even later in life, can prevent Alzheimer’s disease, as well as chronic conditions like diabetes and heart disease. Researchers from the University College of London followed 3,500 seniors for eight years and found a high correlation between the amount of exercise participants completed and their health.
A Direct Link Between Exercise and Healthy Aging
The study asked participants to categorize their physical activity every two years during the course of the study. At the end of the study, cognitive function was tested according to participants’ answers about how easily they were able to operate independently in daily living activities. A walking speed test was also included.
Researchers found that those who began exercising during those eight years were three times more likely to remain healthy and independent.
Those who exercised over the entire period were seven times more likely to be a “healthy ager” than those who remained consistently inactive.
According to the study, “healthy aging” was defined as not only an absence of major disease but also good mental health, cognitive function, and the ability to maintain current activities.
Lifestyle Changes Can Save Your Health
Another study is also adding evidence to support the claim that exercise can provide added protection from Alzheimer’s and related forms of dementia. The study, led by Nathan Johnson PT, DPT, PhD from the University of Kentucky College of Health Sciences, found a positive correlation between fitness and increased blood flow to the areas of the brain where hallmark characteristics of the disease are usually found.
The study included 30 men and women between the ages of 59-69. All participants completed a treadmill fitness assessment and heart ultrasounds. Following this, they received brain scans where researchers looked for blood flow to certain areas of the brain usually detected by Alzheimer’s.
“We set out to characterize the relationship between heart function, fitness, and cerebral blood flow, which no other study had explored to date,” Johnson said. “In other words, if you’re in good physical shape, does that improve blood flow to critical areas of the brain? Does that improved blood flow provide some form of protection from dementia?”
Researchers found that blood flow to these crucial areas of the brain was higher in participants who were more fit, concluding that regular exercise at any age can protect brain health.
Johnson emphasizes that the study implies correlation, not causation, stating, “Can we prove irrefutably that increased fitness will prevent Alzheimer’s? Not at this point. But this is an important first step towards demonstrating that being physically active improves blood flow to the brain and confers some protection from dementia, and conversely that people who live sedentary lifestyles, especially those who are genetically predisposed to Alzheimer’s, might be more susceptible.”
It’s Not Too Late to Prevent Alzheimer’s Disease
Lead investigator of the original British study, Mark Hamer, Ph.D. said, “The take-home message really is to keep moving when you are elderly. It’s [a] cliche, but it’s a case of use it or lose it. You do lose the benefits [of exercise] if you don’t remain active.”
The researchers concluded that, “This study supports public health initiatives designed to engage older adults in physical activity, even those who are of advanced age.”
Moderate exercise is enough to reap the benefits of exercise and help prevent Alzheimer’s. Here are some activities to help you get started:
- Supervised weight lifting
- Water Aerobics
Are you exercising to prevent Alzheimer’s? How are you incorporating moderate exercise into your life? Share your tips and suggestions with us in the comments below.