Exercise & Dementia

According to statistics on the Alzheimer’s Disease International (ADI) website, 80% of the general public are concerned with developing Dementia; furthermore, 1 in 4 people believe there is nothing they can do to prevent it. To add to this growing fear, almost 62% of healthcare practitioners worldwide “incorrectly think that Dementia is part of normal ageing”. Let’s get the real facts!

Research done in the Lancet Journal in 2020 shows that there are approximately 20 genes that can affect a person’s risk of developing Dementia, but these deterministic genes are rare and account for less than 1% of all Dementia cases. Women appear to have a higher risk of developing Dementia than men, but the reason is not clear as to why.

The Lancet research on Dementia-prevention, intervention and care, in 2020 revealed modifiable risk factors that if adhered to, could decrease one’s chance of being diagnosed with this incurable disease. The first modifiable risk factor was physical activity (aerobic and resistance training). Typically what is good for the heart is good for the brain!

Daily physical activity (approximately 20 minutes) moderate to vigorous was seen as the best for the heart, circulation, weight management and mental cognition and wellbeing. Physical activity was viewed as being vital to those looking to prevent the onset of Dementia related illnesses as well as important to those with a diagnoses of Dementia in order to preserve their cognition/cognitive abilities.

Other modifiable risk factors were as listed: smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, quality sleep, air pollution, head injury, infrequent social contact, less education, obesity, hypertension, diabetes, depression, and hearing impairment. Dementia is not a normal part of ageing, however, age is a risk factor for Dementia, so as age increases so does our risk.

Research is ongoing to determine ways to prevent and eliminate this disease; however, currently our best defense is preventative. What is a good preventative approach for most chronic diseases (heart disease, cancer, diabetes, etc.. ) is also the best approach for Dementia related diseases. You have to get moving! Earlier is better, but research shows we can make gains at any time in our lives. If you are new to physical activity a Clinical Exercise Physiologist/Kinesiologist can complete an assessment and recommend the best way to get started. It’s never too early to start, nor is it ever too late!!