September 8, 2011
Science Daily/Mayo Clinic
Any exercise that gets the heart pumping may reduce the risk of dementia and slow the condition's progression once it starts, a new study finds. Researchers examined the role of aerobic exercise in preserving cognitive abilities and concluded that it should not be overlooked as an important therapy against dementia.
"We culled through all the scientific literature we could find on the subject of exercise and cognition, including animal studies and observational studies, reviewing over 1,600 papers, with 130 bearing directly on this issue. We attempted to put together a balanced view of the subject," says J. Eric Ahlskog, M.D., Ph.D., a neurologist at Mayo Clinic.
"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 note that brain imaging studies have consistently revealed objective evidence of favorable effects of exercise on human brain integrity. Also, they note, animal research has shown that exercise generates trophic factors that improve brain functioning, plus exercise facilitates brain connections (neuroplasticity).