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Physical exercise can fight dementia – and it is never too late to start

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Posted December 27, 2017

We know that physical exercise is good for your mind and body. It can offset dementia, but when exercising is too late? A new research from UCL shows that it is actually never too late – exercising brings benefits against dementia regardless of part exercising habits and the onset of dementia.

Any kind of physical exercise helps retaining the cognitive performance, even after the onset of dementia. Image credit: HKB-Interpretation via Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 4.0)

This research involved 30 adults with dementia and 40 adults without the condition. Their cognitive abilities as well as physical fitness were assessed using questionnaires. Scientists found that the ability to plan, organise and remember things could be improved by taking a brisk walk, climbing a set of stairs or doing other kinds of physical exercise. These cognitive abilities are known to deteriorate early during dementia. Scientists say that these results are very hopeful to thousands of families that include people with dementia – even small steps are helpful and physical exercise can bring some other health benefits as well. It can also be a lot of fun.

But why physical exercise would have such effect? Well, it seems like the movement increases the blood flow in frontal-striatal circuits. Previous animal studies have shown that aerobic exercise increases the blood level supply and the growth of new neurons in the brain. This, of course, increases the cognitive performance and thus helps fighting off the dementia. Scientists say it is never too late to start exercising, even if dementia is already here. Dr Eddy J. Davelaar, co-author of the study, said: “when reclassifying all participants according to health status and physical fitness level, most of the people with dementia and high fitness levels were misclassified as cognitively healthy”.

Dementia is a horrible condition, which is forecasted to cost more and more for healthcare systems around the world. The cause of this is increasing lifespan of people as well as ageing population in the developed countries. Dementia costs £26 billion per year in UK alone and you may imagine how much it amounts to in the entire world. It causes a huge distress not only on the patients, but on families as well. Scientists hope that such simple measures that are easy to take such as exercising, could help offset these costs and increase the quality of life of the current patients.

The best news from this research is that it is never too late to start. Even if the person never exercised through his healthy life and the dementia is already here, it is still a good idea to go for a walk. To take stairs. Or to simply kick the ball with your grandchild.

 

Source: UCL

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