Dementia is the impairment of at least two brain functions, like memory loss and judgement and can degenerate over time, but is there anything that can be done to help – can exercise help with dementia?
There is research to show that strength training can protect the brain from degeneration in those at risk of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.
For the first time Australian researchers have shown that resistance training can have a protective effect on the parts of the brain vulnerable to Alzheimer’s disease.
This research shows that 6 months of resistance training twice a week can slow and even halt the degeneration of the brain.
There was a distinctive difference in terms of brain anatomy – the shrinkage of the brain was much slower, and in some cases no existent. Furthermore, those people doing strength exercises had far better cognitive outcomes than those in the control group.
How does exercise help with dementia?
There are two theories of why this happens – in animal studies it is shown that exercise induces a myriad of hormones into the blood stream which promotes plasticity (new nerve connections) in the brain. Another theory is the central nervous system theory – stating that the consistent stimulus of the brain through exercise also induces changes in memory.
As a take home message, this study demonstrates the importance of exercise for the brain and body, specifically strength training, and shows resistance training should be an integral part of dementia reduction strategies.
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More information can be found in the ABC’s article: Strength training can protect brain from degeneration in those at risk of Alzheimer’s disease and the full text article is available here