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Exercise May Prevent Mental Decline for Seniors
Two new studies suggest that exercise may help prevent and improve mild cognitive impairment. Researchers found that people who did moderate physical activity in midlife or later had a reduced risk of mild cognitive impairment, and that six months of high-intensity aerobic exercise improved cognitive function in people with mild impairment.
In one study, 1,324 dementia-free volunteers taking part in the Mayo Clinic Study of Aging completed a physical exercise questionnaire and were assessed as having normal cognition or mild cognitive impairment. Mild cognitive impairment is an in-between state between the normal changes in thinking, learning and memory that come with age and dementia.
Those who said they did moderate exercise, such as swimming, brisk walking, yoga, aerobics or strength training, were 39 percent less likely to have cognitive impairment.
According to a report in Health Day, Mayo researchers said exercise may guard against mild cognitive impairment through production of nerve-protecting compounds, increased blood flow to the brain, improved development and survival or neurons, and decreased risk of heart and blood vessel diseases.
The second study included adults with an average age of 70 who had mild cognitive impairment. They were randomly assigned to do high-intensity aerobics or to a control group that did stretching exercises and kept their heart rate low. After six months, those in the high-intensity group had improved cognitive function compared to those in the control group.