Remember when cancer was the disease everyone was afraid of? That’s probably been replaced by dementia. But here’s another study confirming that we can improve cognitive function.
In addition, women seem to have more capacity to do that than men.
The study was done by Queensland University researchers using European data collected on 16,700 people aged 54-75 over 13 years.
It showed that moderate physical activity (such as brisk walking) each week improved cognitive function by 5% among men and a striking 14% among women.
When moderate activity was boosted to something more vigorous, those figures rose to 8% for men and 15% for women. Which means that for women, most of the improvement came from moderate activity.
Of course, there are other ways to keep an active and healthy brain, such as volunteering or learning something new.
And like all survey-type studies this one’s not foolproof, but it reinforces a lot of previous research.
This month I attended the funeral of a lovely woman in her late 70s. She had vascular dementia and I worked with her for the last six years of her life.
Sadly, her condition was advanced by the time I met her, so my focus was on helping her to stay mobile. To date no-one’s shown that physical activity (or anything else) can turn dementia around once it’s established.
But study after study shows that between diet and exercise we have a big say in preventing it, even if we have genetic risk factors.
Remember that where exercise is concerned everything counts — including gardening and housework.
And while this study showed a benefit from less than the recommended amount, half an hour most days of the week is a goal worth aspiring to.
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