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While scientists have always recommended physical activity to keep the brain healthy, research now shows that regular stretching and movement exercises can help older people with mild memory problems.
Researchers at Wake Forest University School of Medicine recruited 300 adults with mild cognitive impairment to do aerobic, stretching, and balance exercises. The groups were divided based on those two exercises, twice a week with a personal trainer, and trained twice a week more on their own over a period of 12 months.
The study is being presented Tuesday at the 2022 Alzheimer’s Association International Conference in San Diego, California. All of the participants had some form of mild cognitive impairment, one of the earliest stages of dementia, and lived sedentary lifestyles.
Overall, both groups completed 31,000 exercise sessions, said study author Laura Baker. At the end of the experiment, none of the group members had experienced cognitive decline, while a control group with similar participants with mild cognitive impairment who did not exercise did decline.
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Baker told the Associated Press that the study results indicate “this is doable for everyone,” especially older people who have a limited physical exercise routine. In addition, she recommends that exercise “should be part of prevention strategies” for the elderly who are already at risk.
María Carrillo, chief scientist for the Alzheimer’s Association, told the AP that previous research has indicated that daily physical activity has helped reduce inflammation in the brain and increase the amount of blood flowing to it.
Baker also noted that having a social group or support network was crucial for older participants.
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Participants routinely received support while active at their YMCA facility, and regular video call sessions were set up after Covid-19 closed gyms, according to the Associated Press.
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