Brisk Walking Slows Dementia, Study Finds

Women at risk of developing dementia may be able to boost the memory area of their brains by taking up aerobic exercise.

Aerobic activity, such as brisk walking, seems to increase the total volume of the hippocampus – the part of the brain involved in verbal memory and learning, according to a small study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine. The hippocampus appears to be very sensitive to the effects of aging and neurological damage.

Mounting evidence has shown that regular exercise is good for cognitive function and overall brain health. Now, it appears that brisk walking twice a week may help slow down the advance of dementia, according to a British Medical Journal news release.

Worldwide, one new case of dementia is diagnosed every four seconds, the release states. The condition is expected to affect more than 115 million people by the year 2050.

For the study, researchers followed more than 85 women who said they had mild memory problems or mild cognitive impairment – a common risk factor for dementia. The women, ages 70 to 80, all lived at home independently.

After assigning the women one of three exercise routines – brisk walking, resistance training or balance and muscle toning – researchers found that those who performed the aerobic exercises had slightly larger hippocampal volume.

“At the very least, aerobic exercise seems to be able to slow the shrinkage of the hippocampus and maintain the volume in a group of women who are at risk of developing dementia,” researchers said.

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