Regular physical activity seems to reduce the risk of mental decline and dementia
Among those over 71 years of age, the prevalence of dementia in the U.S. is estimated
to be nearly 14%, with 10% attributed to Alzheimer’s disease and 4% to
vascular disease and other causes. Cardiovascular fitness appears to help protect against both
Alzheimer disease and the common vascular causes of dementia, mini-strokes, and
atherosclerosis. Studies have found that physical activity, both aerobic
activities and weight training, slow age-related mental decline, and improve cognition.
The most physically active elderly have less age-related loss of brain volume
than those who are sedentary.
A meta-analysis review of 18 studies of the effect of exercise on cognition published
in the journal Psychological Science concluded that exercise programs involving
both aerobic exercise and strength training produced better results on cognitive abilities
than either one alone. Older adults benefit more than younger adults. More
than 30 minutes of exercise per session produce the greatest benefit.
A study among veterans that measured physical fitness with a treadmill test found
that those scoring six or lower metabolic equivalents on their fitness test had a more
than four times greater risk of cognitive impairment, including Alzheimer disease,
than those with scores of 12 or higher.
Physical activity can improve mental health and mood
The risk of depression is lower for physically active adults who perform the recommended
levels of aerobic or a combination of aerobic and muscle-strengthening
activities. Regular physical activity also appears to reduce symptoms of anxiety
and depression for children and adolescents. Although less well-proven, many people
find that physical activity improves the quality of sleep, reduces anxiety, and
improves mood. According to Sanchis-Gomar et al., “Health is a state of physical,
mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.
In this regard, vigorous intensity exercise is usually performed in groups or social
networks, which improves emotional, intellectual, social, and spiritual well-being;
sleep and mood; interest in sex; stress relief; energy and stamina; and mental alertness.”
A 25-year study found that at all ages, the greater the physical activity, the less likely
those studied were to have symptoms of depression. When evaluated five years
later, sedentary people who began a three-times a week regimen had a lower mean
number of symptoms and an estimated 19% reduction in the odds of depression. A
meta-analysis review of 39 randomized clinical trials to study if exercise is associated
with improvements in depression found that in most studies, exercise was associated
with a reduction in depression scores. The review concluded that the effect
was only small or moderate and that well-designed clinical trials were needed.
This blog presents opinions and ideas and is intended to provide helpful general information. I am not engaged in rendering advice or services to the individual reader. The ideas, procedures and suggestions in that are presented are not in any way a substitute for the advice and care of the reader’s own physician or other medical professional based on the reader’s own individual conditions, symptoms or concerns. If the reader needs personal medical, health, dietary, exercise or other assistance or advice the reader should consult a physician and/or other qualified health professionals. The author specifically disclaims all responsibility for any injury, damage or loss that the reader may incur as a direct or indirect consequence of following any directions or suggestions given in this blog or participating in any programs described in this blog or in the book, The Building Blocks of Health––How to Optimize Your Health with a Lifestyle Checklist (available in print or downloaded at Amazon, Apple, Barnes and Noble and elsewhere). Copyright 2021 by J. Joseph Speidel.