Aerobic Exercise Recognized as an Important Therapy against Dementia

Good news from the Mayo Clinic for Alzheimers Care and Nursing Care residents.

According to researchers at the famed clinic, aerobic exercise which is defined as any physical activity that raises heart rate and increases the body's need for oxygen is good for preserving cognitive abilities and should be regarded as an important therapy against dementia. Aerobic exercise includes walking, doing chores like shovelling snow and raking leaves.

Cognitive decline and dementia including Alzheimer's disease is a leading reason that aging women ultimately require costly long term care, according to Jesse Slome, executive director of the American Association for Long Term Care Insurance. "Long term care insurance can pay for qualifying care at home or in a skilled nursing home but you must apply well before a decline in mental ability or physical health takes place," he notes.

Researchers reviewed more than 1,600 scientific papers on the topic, 130 of which dealt directly with the issue. They concluded that one can make a very compelling argument for exercise as a disease-modifying strategy to prevent dementia and mild cognitive impairment.

They point out that studies involving brain scans consistently show objective evidence of the benefits of exercise on preserving the integrity of the human brain. Animal studies found that exercise produces trophic factors that improve the functioning of the brain, and it also increases connections between brain cells.

Patients with dementia or MCI had better scores after 6 to 12 months of exercise compared to sedentary controls. Healthy adults who did aerobic exercise also showed significantly improved cognitive scores.

The findings were published in this month's issue of Mayo Clinic Proceedings.