Memory loss is confusing for individuals and families who are facing it. It's also a conundrum for medical providers and researchers, who still don't know 100% what causes issues such as dementia and Alzheimer's or how to cure these conditions.
Many years of research on memory loss, however, have shined a light on factors that may put someone at greater risk of these diseases. Genetics, lifestyle and whether or not you have other chronic conditions can help determine whether you're at risk for dementia, for example.
And where risk factors are known, there are options for reducing risk. When it comes to memory loss, physical activity levels are one of the controllable risk factors. Find out more about the link between regular exercise and a potential reduction in risks for memory loss below.
The Alzheimer's Society says physical exercise "appears to be one of the best things that you can do to reduce your risk of getting dementia." It bases this statement on the fact that out of all the controllable factors studied in the past, exercise has demonstrated the most promising results in reducing the risk of memory issues.
Specifically, adults who exercise regularly during middle and older ages have reduced rates of dementia and general cognitive issues compared to adults who did not exercise regularly.
The Mayo Clinic defines the type of exercise that provides this benefit as 30 to 60 minutes of physical activity that gets your heart rate up. Other studies have found positive results for those who The benefits are most likely when you engage in such activity several times a week.
Researchers studying the relationship between memory loss and exercise have also noted that the benefits don't go away if someone does have a memory diagnosis. One study looked at how regular exercise might impact someone with dementia or mild cognitive impairment. A randomized control study found that people who exercised regularly had better cognitive results after 6 to 12 months than those who did not engage in regular physical exercise.
Potentially reducing the risk of memory issues is only one reason among many to integrate exercise into your life. Better cardiovascular health, increased energy, enhanced quality of sleep and a generally better mood are other positive benefits that can come from regular physical activity.
And you don't have to lace up in a pair of joggers and pound it out on the pavement to get these benefits, either. One of the easiest and safest ways to get your heart rate up is to go for a brisk walk. Simply walk around your neighborhood, a nearby school track, a walking path in a park or the indoor track at the local YMCA.
Pay attention to the cues your body gives you. Rest if you need to and start with short walks of 10 minutes and build up to longer walks over time.
Other ways to get your heart rate up include:
If you're a caregiver for someone with a memory diagnosis, consider encouraging them to get active. Invite them on walks or help them enroll in a local senior center's exercise program. These types of activities do more than provide for physical exercise. They also reduce isolation and enhance social opportunities, which are also important factors in helping someone maintain as much cognitive function as possible.
It's not always possible to care for an aging loved one in a safe and comprehensive manner, though. If you're reaching a point where you're not sure how to best help your loved one with a memory diagnosis, consider the benefits of professional memory care in a caring, residential setting like Bethesda Gardens. Our experienced, compassionate staff ensures every resident has opportunities for socialization, exercise and the enjoyment of life.