Confirming what experts have suspected for a while now, a new scientific study by the Rush University Medical Center in Chicago finds that daily exercise has a profound limiting effect on dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. As an added bonus, daily movements also prevent the kind of brain damage that could impair mental and motor function as you get older.
The study adds to our growing understanding about how non-medicinal lifestyle changes may largely ward off the worst parts of growing old. Its findings are reported in greater detail at WebMD.
Most interestingly, the researchers reveal that you can claim these protective health benefits for yourself with only a moderate amount of pleasurable physical activity. In other words, you don’t have to run a marathon.
That’s very important because the biggest reason that people avoid an active lifestyle is that extreme exercise simply isn’t fun. Given the prospect of working up a daily sweat on a miles-long hike, many choose to settle in on the couch instead.
But that’s a false dichotomy. Seniors needn’t choose between extreme sports and couch potato-dom. Researchers found that even more moderate amounts of enjoyable movement could be equally effective, so long as it’s safe and daily.
Their advice isn’t only for the elderly, either. The earlier in life you adopt daily physicality, the more fully you can protect against future brain damage (and the sooner you can start reversing any damage already done).
Given the fact that dementia is on the rise all around the world, I’m thrilled to see so many new reports about simple lifestyle changes that we all can make to meaningfully reduce our risk of disease.
Of course, it’s important to remember that exercise isn’t a guaranteed cure-all, and even the most active senior is likely to experience an increase in healthcare costs as they age. Even in a future that could see substantially fewer cases of dementia, long-term care planning remains important. The good news, though, is that it’s a future we can really be excited to plan for.