Aerobic exercise can help dementia sufferers to stop mental degradation
People with early signs of vascular dementia appear to experience little improvement in general thinking skills by performing aerobic exercise. Researchers have now found that cognitive improvements continue as long as people continue to do the exercises.
The University of British Columbia scientists in Vancouver found that aerobic exercise improves thought processes. This could help reduce the likelihood of developing dementia, especially in older people with early signs of vascular dementia. The doctors published the results of their study in the journal "Neurology".
What does vascular dementia do?
Dementia includes deficits in cognitive, emotional and social skills. In so-called vascular dementia, nerve cells die as a result of circulatory disorders in the brain. The more of these nerve spots die, the more pronounced the disease becomes.
Exercise programs with aerobics improve general thinking skills
The clinical study examined two groups of older people. The experts found that a training program with aerobic exercises leads to small improvements in general thinking skills compared to people who did not exercise such a program. However, the positive effects only last as long as those affected continue their exercises, the authors explain.
Problems with blood flow to the brain can lead to vascular dementia
Vascular dementia is the second most common form of dementia after Alzheimer's. The disease affects around 150,000 people in the UK alone. It causes memory loss, language problems and general difficulties in thinking, the experts explain. The disease occurs when there are problems with blood flow to the brain.
Subjects attended an aerobics class for six months
The study included 70 subjects with an average age of 74 years. Half of these participants took part in one-hour aerobic exercises, which took place three times a week, the doctors explain. The course lasted for six months. The other half of the test subjects only followed a healthy diet.
Subjects were examined several times for the study
All subjects were examined before the study. A further investigation took place immediately after the end of the study. The subjects were examined one last time six months after the end of the study, the scientists explain. The studies concerned comprehensive thinking, leadership skills (planning and organization) and coping with everyday tasks.
Aerobics improved thinking skills and reduced blood pressure
The results of the study showed that subjects from the aerobic group showed little improvement in general thinking skills, the authors explain. This improvement was 1.7 points compared to the group without aerobic exercise. The aerobic group also had lower blood pressure.
After six months without aerobics, there were no improvements
If the affected people did not perform any exercises for six months, there were no more beneficial effects. In addition, aerobics did not improve leadership skills and daily tasks, the doctors say.
High blood pressure increases the risk of dementia
However, the exercise group had better blood pressure control. In addition, the people in the exercise group noticed an increase in the distance that these test subjects could walk in six minutes, the scientists explain. The findings are important because high blood pressure also increases the risk of dementia. Aerobics can help improve cardiovascular health, but has also been linked to a healthy brain and a reduced risk of developing dementia, the experts explain. (as)