Experts have studied different lifestyle habits and how they relate to dementia. The studies found that regular physical activities have the highest chance of preventing dementia.
Dementia is a term doctors use to describe different cognitive disorders that affect memory, communication and performance of regular activities. While dementia is usually associated with aging, it is not a normal part of aging.
People suffering from dementia experience different levels of cognitive functioning, and the severity depends on how fast the disease progresses.
How Exercise Helps in Preventing Dementia
Since sedentary life is one of the main things associated with dementia, it is no surprise that regular physical activity helps prevent its occurrence. A recent study showed that physical fitness helps eliminate the risk of people getting dementia by 33%.
Experts are still researching the success of physical activities in preventing dementia and have not yet come up with concrete evidence of the success from randomized trials. However, the existing research has shown that people who exercise in their early, middle or late life have had lower chances of cognitive decline and developing dementia.
Most studies have shown that the primary way exercises help prevent dementia is by reducing cognitive decline and reducing the loss of brain tissue as people age. This is because exercises help increase blood flow to the brain, which stimulates the growth and survival of brain cells.
Experts associate other benefits of exercises with the fact that they help reduce and manage conditions like stroke, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, blood pressure and obesity, all of which are risk factors for getting dementia.
Exercises That Help
While all exercises are worth doing, some of the exercises that experts recommend for preventing dementia include:
These are moderate-intensity exercises that you can do for an extended time. They help improve blood flow to the brain and improve general physical health.
New research has also indicated that aerobic exercises mainly help reduce the rate at which the hippocampus shrinks. This is the brain area associated with memory, which deteriorates as dementia spreads.
The study involved people over 55 years, divided into two groups. One group only did flexibility exercises, while the other did aerobic exercises four or five times a week for about half an hour each session. The results showed that while both prevented cognitive decline similarly, the aerobic exercise patients experienced slow to no hippocampus shrinkage.
You can start aerobic exercises with less intensity exercises for a short time and increase as you get used to them. However, experts recommend at least 30 minutes of aerobic exercises four to five times a week. Some aerobic exercises include walking, jogging, dancing, swimming and cycling.
These exercises involve exercising your muscles against external forces that produce resistance to your movements. This helps improve your muscle, ligament and tendon strength, flexibility, bone density, postural support, metabolic rate and tone.
Some resistance training exercises include using resistance bands, squeezing rubber balls and weight lifting.
These exercises help strengthen your spine and supporting muscles, plus improve your balance and coordination. They include yoga, Pilates, tai chi, and bending and stretching. You can incorporate them into your aerobic exercise routine and use them as warm-ups or cool-down exercises.
Before embarking on any exercise, ensure that you talk to your doctor and fitness trainer to help you choose the best exercises for you. To avoid hurting yourself, consider working with a trainer who will show you the best formations for every workout.
Physical Activity Guidelines
According to the Australian Government Department of Health, some of the things you should do to get maximum results from your exercises include:
- Being active daily in any way you can, like taking stairs instead of the elevator.
- Consider movements as opportunities and not inconveniences.
- Have a friend or family member join you.
- Incorporate activities and moving into your daily routine, like walking short distances instead of driving.
- Choose exercises and activities you enjoy.
- Start with shorter sessions and less intense exercises, then increase as you go.
- Always warm up before exercising and cool down afterwards.
- If you struggle with balance or have painful joints, try water exercises or use a prop to prevent falls.
- Exercise in safe spaces with no poor lighting, slippery floors or floor rugs.
- If you feel sick or experience pain when exercising, stop and seek medical attention.
- Have rest days to allow your body to heal.
While exercise is essential in preventing dementia, people who have dementia should also continue to exercise. It helps deal with stress and depression, which are common among dementia patients. They also help prevent mobility issues, muscle weakness and other physical issues dementia patients deal with.