Now that you’ve finished texting and posted your vacation photos on Facebook, you might have some extra time to let the mind take a much-needed breather.
Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia can be disabling in different ways. For some, they interrupt their ability to remember, connect to the world or problem-solve. For others, it’s a debilitating sense of being lost and left alone. And for many of us, that feeling comes just after a workout of some sort.
A recently published study in the journal Neurology suggests that regular exercise can also blunt these symptoms by giving the brain a burst of energy and higher levels of energy-boosting chemicals.
Researchers followed 200 healthy older people for 12 months. They gave daily cards that provided feedback and physical activity prompts, such as, “Do you enjoy being in the moment?” “Let go of doubt.” or “Have you noticed any changes in your mood or reaction to situations?”
In addition, the participants were each required to answer detailed self-evaluations every week — testing their moods, sleep patterns, concentration, general satisfaction with life, anxiety, depression and the ability to solve puzzles, games and word searches.
The card-guidance assignments and personal questionnaires kept the participants active and in a positive mood. The exercise sessions, the researchers wrote, “benefited their mood through more activity and therefore as to aid in memory.”
In addition, the participants maintained higher levels of activity and productivity in addition to the improved mood scores when compared with people who were inactive and depressed.
Researchers found that these memory benefits occurred even for people who were already mentally fit.
“Worried that regular exercise may boost levels of fat or sugar in the blood? … Think again,” the authors write. “Our data suggest that aerobic activity significantly improves the field of cognitive control that is critical for preventing symptoms of dementia.”
The team points out that exercising is safe and effective, and that a longer-term follow-up is needed to verify the findings.
Also in Neurology: Dr. Soeren Mattke’s blog about his findings about the value of avoiding foods and beverages with high fructose corn syrup. It’s the one ingredient in various drinks and desserts that has been linked to detrimental changes in the brain.