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Exercise tied to lowered risk of dementia

November 2, 2012

Maintaining cognitive function is an important part of healthy aging, and scientists have long sought effective methods to prevent dementia and Alzheimer's disease. New research suggests that physical activity may be one of the best ways to do so. A study from Portugal's University of Lisbon found older adults who exercised had a considerably lower risk of suffering from dementia.

The findings were recently published in the journal Stroke and are based off a study of more nearly 640 people between the ages of 60 and 70. The research team relied on MRI scans along with periodic interviews with the subjects and found that those who exercised regularly had about a 60 percent lower chance of developing dementia later in life.

"We strongly suggest physical activity of moderate intensity at least 30 minutes three times a week to prevent cognitive impairment," said lead author Dr. Ana Verdelho of the Santa Maria Hospital in Portugal. "This is particularly important for people with vascular risk factors such as hypertension, stroke or diabetes."

The results underscore the fact that exercise is an important part of a healthy lifestyle for seniors. Aside from helping lower the risk of dementia, maintaining a level of physical activity during retirement can help stave off a number of other health conditions.

For example, exercise is one of the best ways for seniors to manage the pain and discomfort associated with arthritis, according to the Mayo Clinic. Though it may seem difficult to work out with arthritis, experts say staying active helps alleviate pain because it strengthens bones and muscles. Additionally, it can help seniors control their weight and improve overall quality of life.