It looks like if you’re going to maintain good cognitive functioning well into old age, you need to include vigorous physical activity during midlife.
This is the message from a study of the Finnish Twin Cohort which was published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease. This study followed 3,050 twins showing that moderately vigorous physical activity during midlife resulted in improved cognition or understanding in a person’s thought patterns and ability to acquire knowledge when a person aged. This study is one of just a few long-term, high-quality, follow-up studies on physical activity and cognition which is important as it remains unclear what type and amount of exercise is needed to protect against dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
Vigorous physical activity is defined as more strenuous than walking. It is one thing to go on a walk which is always better than sitting around too much but taking that walk up a notch to a robust brisk power walk, is associated with better cognition at old age.
Another finding was that the improvements made in cognition and physical activities influence on this were statistically independent of midlife hypertension, smoking, education levels, sex, obesity, and binge drinking indicating that the benefits are not solely based on reducing vascular risk factors.
The findings from this study echoed results from earlier animal studies showing that physical activity increases the amount of growth factors in the brain and improves synaptic plasticity.
As dementia and Alzheimer’s risk increase over the coming years due to an aging population, the more information we have in ways to possibly reduce or delay the onset of either condition, the better for all of us. At this time there is no cure for preventing dementia or Alzheimer’s but with continued research there has been an abundance of new information and understanding in this area.
So, lace up your tennis shoes and take a vigorous power walk starting today.