Physical exercise is essential for maintaining good blood flow to the brain as well as to encourage new brain cells. It also can significantly reduce the risk of heart attack, stroke and diabetes, and thereby protect against those risk factors for Alzheimer’s and other dementias.
Growing evidence shows that physical exercise does not have to be strenuous or even require a major time commitment. It is most effective when done regularly, and in combination with a brain-healthy diet, mental activity and social interaction.
Aerobic exercise improves oxygen consumption, which benefits brain function; aerobic fitness has been found to reduce brain cell loss in elderly subjects. Walking, bicycling, gardening, tai chi, yoga and other activities of about 30 minutes daily get the body moving and the heart pumping.
Physical activities that also involve mental activity – plotting your route, observing traffic signals, making choices – provide additional value for brain health. And doing these activities with a companion offers the added benefit of social interaction.
Avoid head trauma when exercising
Severe head injuries have been associated with increased risk for later development of Alzheimer's disease and other dementias.
Additional Web resources
Growing Stronger: Strength Training for Older Adults
This feature, developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Tufts University, is an exercise program designed to help older adults increase muscle strength, maintain bone density, and improve coordination, balance and mobility.
More information about the prevention of Alzheimer's disease.