Forgetting where you put your keys or missing appointments are common symptoms of mild cognitive impairment. While poor memory is often considered a normal part of aging, these seemingly minor mistakes are actually serious risk factors for dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease. The prevention though might be easier than we previously thought: Recent research suggests mild aerobic exercise can help improve memory.
A study conducted by the American Geriatrics Society found that just six months of aerobic exercise could improve memory function up to one year later.
Scientists studied 160 participants who were 55 years or older who had minor memory problems and difficulty making decisions. The participants did not exercise before the study and were all at risk for at least one heart condition, based on high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or diabetes.
The 160 participants were examined for dietary habits, cognitive functioning, and their ability to complete physical tasks. They were then randomly categorized into three groups.
One group had to perform 35 minutes of mildly intense exercise, including stationary biking or walking, three times per week. Another group followed the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet. And the third group combined the heart healthy diet with exercise.
The participants followed these guidelines for six months before returning to their normal lifestyles.
After six months of engaging in their regular habits, participants were reexamined. Scientists found that the exercise group performed better at decision making, thinking, and remembering than the non-exercise group.
Thirty-five minutes is equivalent to one episode of your favorite sitcom, one load of laundry being washed, or the amount of time it takes to roast your vegetables. This study suggests that prioritizing those 35 minutes, at least three times a week, for exercise can have long-term effects.
So put in a load of laundry and go for a brisk walk around the block. By the time you return, ‘Ding!’ clothes are clean, and you just gave your brain a big boost.