Physical exercise in older people is associated with a slower rate of decline in memory and some thinking skills that occur with ageing, according to new research carried out by the University of Miami. The study was published today in the online issue of Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.
In a study of 876 people, those who reported no or low exercise experienced greater reductions in memory and information processing speed over a five year period than those who reported moderate to intense exercise. The difference between the groups was equal to the equivalent of 10 years of ageing. The difference also remained after researchers controlled for other factors that can affect brain health, such as smoking, alcohol use, high blood pressure and body mass index.
Dr Clare Walton, Research Communications Manager at Alzheimer’s Society, commented: “We know that what is good for the heart is good for the head and people who are physically active throughout life have a reduced risk of developing dementia.
“This study underlines the importance of taking regular physical activity to keep the brain healthy as we age.
‘Regular exercise doesn’t just mean running marathons, but anything that gets your heart rate up for 30 minutes or more, like taking a brisk walk, a game of tennis or a dance class.’