21 Oct New Study Finds The Link Between Exercise And Dementia Is Stronger Than First Thought
We all know that exercise has amazing benefits on our physical health and emotional wellbeing, and in the case of people suffering with dementia these benefits become all the more significant.
A new ground breaking study conducted by the University of Sunshine Coast, Australia has gone one step further in researching the link between exercise and dementia. Led by Dr Chris Askew, researchers have begun looking at how, even thinking about exercising, could benefit our brain function.
Why exercise plays such an important role in cognitive function
It has been previously found, the risk of suffering the debilitating disease is heightened in those who don’t exercise. In fact, people who don’t do 20-minutes of vigorous exercise three times a week, or a 30-minute moderate session five times a week, are 82 percent more likely to develop dementia.
Those people who are fit and exercise regularly at an older age, also lower their risk of suffering from cognitive impairment.
When we exercise, the blood pressure and carbon dioxide levels change with leads to a change in blood flow towards the brain. According to Dr Askew, “As we age, the vessels that supply that blood can lose their responsiveness”.
The effect of thinking about exercise may even be beneficial
What’s interesting about this latest study, is that for those who are physically limited there may be a way to protect themselves against the onset and progression of dementia.
“We know that one of the benefits of exercise, whether it’s the benefits for our heart or the benefits for our body in general is that it leads to increases in blood flow; the increases in blood flow through our arteries to our muscles”, says to Dr Askew.
Dr Askew continues to explain that this increase in blood flow, is what is stimulating the growth of new blood vessels and improved vascular function.
“And the interesting thing when we exercise is that we can see increases in blood flow even when we’re thinking about exercise. So we’re trying to separate the physical stimuli for that increase in blood flow from the mental stimuli from the increases in brain blood flow.”
During the Australian study the participants were divided into two groups, performing two different forms of exercise. One group was required to do a simple sit-to-stand movement and a cycling test. The other, were engaged in a virtual reality experiment during which, they simply sat on a stationary bike and watched a screen of a figure cycling.
The participant’s brain activity was studied and compared between those who had actually exercised and those where exercise was only a thought.
Incredibly, a positive increase in the people’s blood flow who simply were thinking about exercise and not working up a sweat could be the key to improve the wellbeing of those incapacitated.
“Certainly if we see positive increases in blood flow, even when someone is thinking about exercise, there’s potential for patients who have had a severe stroke, for example, or patients who are incapacitated during an acute hospital stay, for example, that this form of simulated exercise might be a positive way to increase their blood flow and therefore provide and promote improvements in their brain vascular function. And that could have positive effects in the cognitive function and brain function.”
While this research is promising, thinking about exercise is not going to be a substitute for actually exercising if you’re physically able to. So, sorry you haven’t got out of it that easily!
Regular exercise is the greatest way you can reduce your risks of developing dementia. It can also help minimise the other risk factors which lead to cognitive impairment like depression, hypertension, obesity and diabetes.
So are you getting a minimum or three vigorous workouts in each week?