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Moderate Exercise May Keep Your Mind Sharp

New research published in the September issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association found that moderate exercise, particularly walking, can improve cognitive function in adults suffering from mild cognitive impairment (MCI).

MCI is the transition stage between general cognitive decline associated with aging and neuro-degenerative diseases like dementia. It can affect language, judgment, reasoning, and attention but the most common symptom of the disorder is memory loss.

For the study, researchers from the University of Melbourne in Australia recruited 128 adults with an average age of 69. Participants were randomly split in half and assigned one of two programs.

The first group was assigned to a standard care and education program for individuals with MCI. The second group was asked to participate in a 24 week exercise program in which they were encouraged to do moderate exercises for at least 150 minutes per week.

The benefits of exercise could be seen after six months and lasted up to a year after the exercise program stopped. The participants in this group scored higher on cognitive tests and showed signs of better memory through “delayed recall”. Delayed recall was measured by their ability to remember a list of words after a certain amount of time had passed.

Physical activity not only showed improvement of cognitive function but also provided a number of other health benefits as well. According to the researchers, these health benefits include lower instances of depression, higher quality of life, better cardiovascular function, and lower risk for disabilities.

The number of people suffering from dementia is expected to increase dramatically as the baby boomer generation gets older. Researchers speculate that delaying the onset of dementia by even one year would drastically reduce the number of cases seen around the world.
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