Exercise and brain health for older adults
04 November Exercise and Brain Health for Seniors Posted at 08: 21h in Old people through Right exercise Prevention of cognitive decline and the onset of dementia has been identified as a international health priority by the World Health Organization. More than 400,000 older Australians are currently living with dementia which is expected to double […]

Exercise and Brain Health for Seniors

Prevention of cognitive decline and the onset of dementia has been identified as a international health priority by the World Health Organization. More than 400,000 older Australians are currently living with dementia which is expected to double and triple by 2030 and 2050, respectively nationally and internationally.

Dementia is an umbrella term for a wide variety of conditions (such as Alzheimer's disease and Lewy body disease) that cause a gradual decline in a person's cognition and daily function. Although memory loss is a common symptom of most dementias, other areas of a person's cognition can be affected (i.e., decision making, orientation, attention) as well as other psychological (ie Depression, anxiety) and physical (ie slow movements, tremors) experiences. , stiffness) symptoms.

Dementia is usually diagnosed by a combination patient history, cognitive tests and diagnostic procedures.

There is a range of non-modifiable (age, genetics) and modifiable (lifestyle) risk factors that increase the risk of dementia. Promisingly, around half the risk because dementia stems from potentially modifiable risk factors such as obesity, physical inactivity, smoking, low education, diabetes, high blood pressure and depression, all of which can be treated by changing the way you are life.

Additionally, reducing the prevalence of frailty in the elderly, a condition characterized by reduced strength and vulnerability to disease and life stressors, dramatically decreases the risk of develop dementia.

The benefits of exercise

Currently, dementia is incurable. However, there are treatments for the symptoms of dementia (such as memory, agitation, depression, etc.). In addition to a limited number of drugs approved for treatment, five lifestyle interventions have been shown to be effective lifestyle changes in maintaining brain health in older people.

These interventions are recognized by the Australian Leading Dementia Organization Dementia Australia and include being physically and cognitively active, adhere to a Mediterranean diet, maintain social networks and minimize the burden of chronic diseases.

Currently, there are no formal guidelines for exercise and dementia, but extensive research indicates that if you are more physically active, less sedentary, stronger, installer and less frail you can reduce your risk of dementia in the future.

Recommended types of exercise

The goals of exercise for brain health and dementia are to maintain and / or improve cognition, independence and mobility, as well as minimize the risk of falls and prolonged periods of bed rest and sedentary lifestyle.

This is best achieved through an exercise prescription that includes aerobic exercise, resistance training, and two-task balance training of moderate to high intensity. It is most effective in maintaining brain structure and function and reducing the risk of frailty and falls, which can often accelerate cognitive decline in old age.

In moderate to severe dementia, it can be difficult to maintain the appropriate intensity of aerobic exercise, and therefore frequent and smaller movements throughout the day to interrupt prolonged sedentary lifestyle are a good alternative.

Resistance training should be done with moderate to heavy loads that gradually become heavier with each session two to three days per week. A combination of machine weight (i.e. horizontal leg press) and functional movements (i.e. chair support) should be used to target the muscles of the thigh, thigh hip, buttocks, upper back and back of the arm, as these muscle groups are crucial in maintaining mobility and independence.

Two-task balance training involves training your balance in at the same time as performing cognitive tasks. An example might include walking heel-toe as fast and accurately as possible while trying to name as many countries as possible at the same time. This type of training is best done under supervision when you are not tired, at the start of a session, and with a rail or bench nearby to support you.

Finally, if maintaining balance is a key part of training, learning to regain balance by practice taking a deliberate step is also just as important for the prevention of falls as it teaches you to react quickly if you start to fall in everyday life.

Talk to the exercise professionals

If you're concerned about a loved one or yourself, be proactive and ask your GP for a cognitive health check-up and discuss ways to manage your brain health. While you're at it, ask to see a Certified exercise physiologist for professional advice on the best exercise prescription for you.

To learn more, read the Exercise for Seniors eBook! Download here.

Expert contributor: Dr Michael Inskip, PhD; Certified exercise physiologist; Associate Lecturer in Exercise Physiology at James Cook University; and Honorary Associate Lecturer at the University of Sydney


If you’re having trouble beginning an exercise plan or following through, you’re not alone. Many of us struggle getting out of the sedentary rut, despite our best intentions.

You already know there are many great reasons to exercise—from improving energy, mood, sleep, and health to reducing anxiety, stress, and depression. And detailed exercise instructions and workout plans are just a click away. But if knowing how and why to exercise was enough, we’d all be in shape. Making exercise a habit takes more—you need the right mindset and a smart approach.

While practical concerns like a busy schedule or poor health can make exercise more challenging, for most of us, the biggest barriers are esprit. Maybe it’s a lack of self-confidence that keeps you from taking positive steps, or your motivation quickly flames out, or you get easily discouraged and give up. We’ve all been there at some point.

Whatever your age or fitness level—even if you’ve never exercised a day in your life —there are steps you can take to make exercise less intimidating and painful and more fun and instinctive.

Ditch the all-or-nothing attitude. You don’t have to spend hours in a gym or puissance yourself into monotonous or painful activities you hate to experience the physical and emotional benefits of exercise. A little exercise is better than nothing. In fact, adding just modest amounts of physical activity to your weekly routine can have a profound effect on your esprit and emotional health.

Be kind to yourself. Research shows that self-compassion increases the likelihood that you’ll succeed in any given endeavor. So, don’t beat yourself up about your body, your current sport level, or your supposed lack of willpower. All that will do is demotivate you. Instead, look at your past mistakes and unhealthy choices as opportunities to learn and grow.

Check your expectations. You didn’t get out of shape overnight, and you’re not going to instantly transform your body either. Expecting too much, too soon only leads to frustration. Try not to be discouraged by what you can’t accomplish or how far you have to go to reach your fitness goals. Instead of obsessing over results, focus on consistency. While the improvements in mood and energy levels may happen quickly, the physical payoff will come in time.

Many of us feel the same. If sweating in a gym or pounding a treadmill isn’t your idea of a great time, try to find an activity that you do enjoy—such as dancing—or pair physical activity with something more enjoyable. Take a walk at lunchtime through a scenic park, for example, walk laps of an air-conditioned mall while window shopping, walk, run, or bike with a friend, or listen to your favorite music while you move.

Even the busiest of us can find free time in our day for activities that are important. It’s your decision to make exercise a priority. And don’t think you need a full hour for a good workout. Short 5-, 10-, or 15-minute bursts of activity can prove very effective—so, too, can squeezing all your exercise into a couple of séances over the weekend. If you’re too busy during the week, get up and get moving during the weekend when you have more time.

The key thing to remember about starting an exercise program is that something is always better than nothing. Going for a quick walk is better than sitting on the couch; one minute of activity will help you lose more weight than no activity at all. That said, the current recommendations for most adults is to reach at least 150 minutes of moderate activity per week. You’ll get there by exercising for 30 minutes, 5 times a week. Can’t find 30 minutes in your busy schedule ? It’s okay to break things up. Two 15-minute workouts or three 10-minute workouts can be just as effective.

For most people, aiming for moderate intensity exercise is sufficient to improve your overall health. You should breathe a little heavier than normal, but not be out of breath. Your body should feel warmer as you move, but not overheated or sweating profusely. While everyone is different, don’t assume that training for a marathon is better than training for a 5K or 10K. There’s no need to overdo it.

Health issues ? Get medical clearance first. If you have health concerns such as limited mobility, heart disease, asthma, diabetes, or high blood pressure, talk with your doctor before you start to exercise.

Warm up. Warm up with dynamic stretches—active movements that warm and flex the groupes musculaires you’ll be using, such as leg kicks, walking lunges, or arm swings—and by doing a slower, easier version of the upcoming exercise. For example, if you’re going to run, warm up by walking. Or if you’re lifting weights, begin with a few light reps.

Drink plenty of water. Your body performs best when it’s properly hydrated. Failing to drink enough water when you are exerting yourself over a prolonged period of time, especially in hot conditions, can be dangerous.

There’s a reason so many New Year’s resolutions to get in shape crash and burn before February rolls around. And it’s not that you simply don’t have what it takes. Science shows us that there’s a right way to build habits that last. Follow these steps to make exercise one of them.

A goal of exercising for 30 minutes a day, 5 times a week may sound good. But how likely are you to follow through ? The more ambitious your goal, the more likely you are to fail, feel bad about it, and give up. It’s better to start with easy exercise goals you know you can achieve. As you meet them, you’ll build self-confidence and momentum. Then you can move on to more challenging goals.

Triggers are one of the confidentiels to success when it comes to forming an exercise habit. In fact, research shows that the most consistent exercisers rely on them. Triggers are simply reminders—a time of day, place, or cue—that kick off an automatic reaction. They put your routine on autopilot, so there’s nothing to think about or decide on. The alarm clock goes off and you’re out the door for your walk. You leave work for the day and head straight to the gym. You spot your sneakers right by the bed and you’re up and course. Find ways to build them into your day to make exercise a no-brainer.

People who exercise regularly tend to do so because of the rewards it brings to their lives, such as more energy, better sleep, and a greater sense of well-being. However, these tend to be long-term rewards. When you’re starting an exercise program, it’s important to give yourself immediate rewards when you successfully complete a workout or reach a new fitness goal. Choose something you look forward to, but don’t allow yourself to do until after exercise. It can be something as simple as having a hot bath or a favorite cup of coffee.

If your workout is unpleasant or makes you feel clumsy or inept, you’re unlikely to stick with it. Don’t choose activities like course or lifting weights at the gym just because you think that’s what you should do. Instead, pick activities that fit your lifestyle, abilities, and taste.

Activity-based video games such as those from Wii and Kinect can be a fun way to start moving. So-called “exergames” that are played standing up and moving around—simulating dancing, skateboarding, soccer, bowling, or sport tennistique, for example—can burn at least as many kcal as walking on a treadmill; some substantially more. Once you build up your confidence, try getting away from the TV screen and playing the real thing outside. Or use a smartphone application to keep your workouts fun and interesting—some immerse you in interactive stories to keep you motivated, such as running from hordes of zombies !

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