Friday, September 5, 2008

Forgetting to exercise? Exercise may help you remember.

When Kaua'i County opened up a bike path on the east side of the island, the shocking thing was how many people immediately began using it for walking.
It seemed there was a pent-up demand for a safe walking spot—and increasingly, that's being viewed by scientific work as a good idea.
Hawai'i residents seem to get this. Hawai'i already has the second-lowest obesity rate in the United States (see, which may be linked to having one of the lowest adult inactivity rates in the country. (
But obesity isn't all of it, and the benefits of exercise are not even just about physical health.
A stunning new just-published Australian study shows that adults over 50 whose mental capacity is declining can reverse that process with a comparatively moderate exercise program.
Just go walking.
You might readily assume that keeping healthy would delay the decline in physical and mental well-being, but the concept of turning your forgetfulness around is remarkable.
The study, as reported by Science Daily, involves work written up by Nicola Lautenschlager and associates in the Journal of the American Medical Association. The title: “Effect of Physical Activity on Cognitive Function in Older Adults at Risk for Alzheimer Disease.”
Lautenschlager is chair of the Old Age Psychiatry program at Australia's University of Melbourne.
They divided up 170 people who reported memory problems that were still short of being categorized as dementia.
Half of them didn't do anything different in their lives. The other half joined a 24-week exercise program that aimed at three 50-minute walks each week—or similar exercise. It ended up that the second group was doing about 20 minutes a day more exercise than the other group.
At the end of the study, the exercising group did better on mental tests and had better recall, as well as lower ratings on a Clinical Dementia Rating system.
Lautenschlager said that the study is groundbreaking.
"We believe this trial is the first to demonstrate that exercise can improve cognitive function in older adults at risk," she said.
The mental benefits seem to stick, too. She said that re-testing six and 12 months after the activity program, the memory improvements continued.
And of course, there are all the related benefits of exercise:
"Unlike medication, which was found to have no significant effect on mild cognitive impairment, physical activity has the advantage of other health benefits such as preventing depression, quality of life, falls, cardiovascular function and disability, Lautenschlager said.
"We have known for a long time that exercise is a great way to improve cardiovascular health, but it may be that in the future exercise can also be recommended to protect against the ageing brain."
Still another reason to leave the car keys at home, and hoof it to where you're going.
Not only does it save gas, save money and keep you fit.
It might help you remember where you left the car keys.
© 2008 Jan TenBruggencate

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