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Let’s get physical!

13 March 2013

Let’s get physical!

We all know exercise is good for us but now research has shown that it is also good for the brain. By exercising four or more times a week from childhood we could improve brainpower in later life by as much a third, helping to prevent the onset of dementia.

The study looked at 9,000 volunteers for a 40 year period from the age of 11.  Participants were
asked about their levels of exercise and also took part in tests measuring memory, attention and learning.

The results showed that those who exercised weekly throughout their life performed better in all tests at the age of 50 when compared to those who exercised two or three times a week and less.  It was found that men lost a third less brain power by age 50 while women saw a benefit of 25% if they undertook frequent exercise.

However, results also showed those who undertook physical activity just once a week had a slower mental decline, by around 10%.

Study leader Dr Alex Dregan, from King’s College London, said, “The research shows that any physical activity is beneficial for cognitive function.  Current guidelines are for 30 minutes of exercise, five times a week, but the study has found you do not have to take this much exercise to see benefits. Even those that take part in physical activity once a week still benefit.”

Dr Dregan added, “For a man who exercises regularly, the rate of cognitive decline when they reach 50 is reduced by a third, while for women it is a quarter.  And the benefits of regular exercise will continue after an individual reaches 50.  The results suggest that regular physical
activity could help delay dementia.”

Currently Government guidelines recommend adults between the ages of 19 and 64 undertake at least 150 minutes of exercise per week, about five 30 minute sessions.

Government guidelines say that adults aged between 19 to 64 should exercise for at least 150 minutes per week, the equivalent of five half-an-hour sessions.

“It’s widely acknowledged that a healthy body equals a healthy mind.” commented Dr Dregan.  “However, not everyone is willing or able to take part in the recommended 150 minutes of
physical activity per week.  For these people any level of physical activity may benefit their cognitive well-being in the long-term and this is something that needs to be explored further.  Setting lower exercise targets at the beginning and gradually increasing their frequency and intensity could be a more effective method for improving levels of exercise within the wider