64% of Britons are unaware that exercise can help reduce risk of dementia

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Older people exercising-care industry newsAlmost eight in ten people (79 per cent) are not doing the amount of average weekly exercise recommended by NHS guidelines, despite evidence that taking part in regular exercise can reduce a person’s risk of developing dementia, according to a survey carried out by Alzheimer’s Society to mark the start of Memory Walks on Saturday.

Research shows that taking regular exercise is one of the best things that can be done to reduce the risk of getting dementia, yet 64% of people surveyed (67% men, 62% women) didn’t know that regular exercise and physical activity could reduce the risk of people developing dementia.

NHS guidelines advise that adults should take part in at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity such as brisk walking every week, but this survey shows that only 18% of people are following these guidelines (21% men, 15% women), while 14% don’t participate in any exercise at all during an average week.

The region with the lowest number of people doing the recommended amount of average weekly exercise is the West Midlands – only 14%, while the regions where most people do the recommended amount are the North West and South West – 20%. People in London are the least aware of the benefits of exercise in reducing the risk of developing dementia (32%) while the highest awareness is in the South West (44%).

Current evidence suggests that an increase in physical activity, along with increasing cognitive activity, eating a healthy diet, not smoking and management of diseases such as diabetes, have the potential to reduce the risk of dementia. These findings have been reported in several studies including a recent review of dementia risk factors published in the Alzheimer’s & Dementia Journal, as well as the World Alzheimer’s Report 2014.

Actress Adele Silva will be taking part in Alzheimer’s Society’s first Memory Walk in Leeds this Saturday (5th September). She said: “I’ve experienced first-hand the devastating effect dementia has on families, and it saddens me to think people aren’t aware of simple things they can do to reduce their risk of developing this terrible condition. Evidence has shown that taking regular exercise, eating a healthy balanced diet and not smoking can help prevent dementia and can also help people already living with the condition.

“This Saturday, I’ll be taking part in Alzheimer’s Society’s Leeds Memory Walk and I’ll be walking for my wonderful Nan, who had dementia, along with thousands of people walking for their loved ones. It’s a great way to raise vital funds to support others living with the condition.”

Paul Seymour from Bath was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s disease in October 2014 at the age of 54. He said: “Exercising regularly helps me to wind down and focus my thoughts. I’ve always been active, but since I was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease I make an extra effort to get out on my bike or take part in outdoor walking events such as Alzheimer’s Society’s Memory Walk.

“I’m still young and despite my Alzheimer’s diagnosis, I’m determined to stay as active as possible for as long as possible.”

Dr Clare Walton, Research Manager at Alzheimer’s Society said: “The results of Alzheimer’s Society’s survey are concerning, showing a lack of awareness among the general public of the benefits of exercise. What’s good for the heart is good for the head and regular exercise is one of the best ways to reduce your risk of developing dementia, yet many people questioned didn’t know that.

“People living with dementia should also try to keep physically active as it can bring many benefits including improved circulation, reduced stress and anxiety and better sleep. Alzheimer’s Society’s Memory Walks, taking place throughout September, are a great way for people with and without dementia to get some exercise and to meet other people in your local community.”

Additional YouGov Stats:
• The poll finds that 19% of people take part in less than 30 minutes of exercise per week, while 14% of people do no exercise whatsoever
• Only 36% of people recognised that regular exercise and physical activity can have a significant impact on reducing the risk of developing dementia
• 85% of people surveyed recognised that regular exercise can have a significant impact on improving overall fitness and maintaining a healthy lifestyle
• 78% of people said they thought regular exercise had a significant impact on weight loss
• 70% of people said they felt exercise could have a significant impact on preventing heart disease
• 58% of people recognised that exercise can reduce the likelihood of developing diabetes

Activities such as brisk walking can contribute to the total weekly exercise recommended by the NHS. Taking part in an Alzheimer’s Society Memory Walk is a great way to get active and raise money to help support research and vital services for people living with dementia. Alzheimer’s Society’s Memory Walks are taking place across England, Wales and Northern Ireland throughout September. To sign up to your nearest walk and start fundraising, visit memorywalk.org.uk

Alzheimer’s Society provides a range of services to support people living with dementia. Call the national helpline on 0300 222 1122 or email helpline@alzheimers.org.uk. For more information about Alzheimer’s Society visit www.alzheimers.org.uk

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