Everybody dreads the possibility of developing dementia and memory loss. I’m not talking about forgetting where you placed your keys, blanking on the name of some actor in a movie you saw three years ago, or the occasional brain fart when you can’t remember what was on your grocery shopping list. I’m talking about forgetting how to get back to your house, drawing a blank on your spouse’s name, or not recognizing a loved one’s face. Scary stuff.
New research reveals that exercise may help fight off dementia—particularly in women. This doesn’t surprise me. If you’re familiar with my work, you know that I often say that what’s good for the heart is good for the brain. Physical exercise is the fountain of youth; it’s critical to keeping your brain vibrant and young. Exercise is one of the most powerful anti-aging tools, and it directly fights depression, anxiety, heart disease, diabetes and cancer.
What did surprise me about this study, which was published in the journal Neurology, is HOW MUCH protection exercise provided.
Middle-aged women who had the highest level of cardiovascular fitness were almost 90 percent less likely to develop dementia in old age than women with lower fitness levels.
The women with the lowest fitness levels in middle age had the highest rates of dementia in their golden years.
Now that’s what I call motivation to get moving!
In general, I recommend four types of exercise that are great for your brain: bursting or interval training, strength training, coordination exercises, and mindful exercise. Of course, you should check with your physician before starting any new exercise routines.
• Burst training involves 60-second bursts at go-for-broke intensity followed by a few minutes of lower-intensity exertion. Take a 30-45 minute walk every day. During the walk take 4 or 5 one-minute periods to “burst” (walking or running as fast as you can), then go back to walking at a normal pace.
• Strengthen your brain with strength training. The stronger you are as you age, the less likely you are to get Alzheimer’s disease. It also helps with weight loss and losing belly fat. I recommend two 30-45 minute weightlifting sessions a week—one for the lower body (abs, lower back, and legs), the other for the upper body (arms, upper back, and chest).
• Boost your brain with coordination activities. Doing coordination activities —like dancing, tennis, or table tennis (the world’s best brain sport)—boosts the activity in the cerebellum.
• Calm and focus your mind with mindful exercise. Yoga, tai chi, and other mindful exercises have been found to reduce anxiety and depression and increase focus.
To find out how you can shape up your brain and body, check out my #WorkoutWednesday fitness tips on Facebook.
Nicole L. Spartano, Tiia Ngandu. Fitness and dementia risk. Neurology, Mar 2018, 10.1212/WNL.0000000000005282; DOI:10.1212/WNL.0000000000005282