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Aerobic exercise good therapy for dementia

Kathleen Blanchard's picture

Patients, who exercise even after they’re diagnosed with dementia, might be able to halt progression of the disease, according to researchers. Maintaining an exercise program throughout life could keep the brain sharp with aging.

Aerobic exercise means using large muscle groups to keep the heart pumping strong. Power walking – swinging the arms and walking briskly – swimming, raking the leaves, snow shoveling and workouts at the gym are all examples of activities that raise the heart rate.

Review shows aerobic exercise should be encouraged for brain health

The study, which comes from Mayo Clinic researchers, means clinicians might consider prescribing exercise to halt cognitive decline that occurs with dementia.

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Eric Ahlskog, M.D., Ph.D., a neurologist at Mayo Clinic said, “We concluded that you can make a very compelling argument for exercise as a disease-modifying strategy to prevent dementia and mild cognitive impairment, and for favorably modifying these processes once they have developed.”

The researchers say animal studies consistently show exercise helps keep brain connections intact and improves brain functioning. Brain imaging studies done on humans also show exercise preserves brain integrity.

The finding comes from a review of 1,600 papers; 130 of those were directly related to exercise and dementia.

Ahlskog says the finding highlights the importance for physicians to continue to counsel patients about exercise that not only helps overall health, but also could help lower the risk of dementia and prevent progression of the condition. The study shows aerobic exercise that keeps the heart pumping to improve blood flow to the brain is good therapy for fighting dementia.

Image credit: morguefile