’Senior moments,’ ’old age’ dementia and Alzheimer’s are common, if distressing, issues of an aging population. While the symptoms of each of these conditions may initially appear to be similar – forgetfulness, short term memory loss and some confusion – according to the Alzheimer’s Association, the long-range prognosis and care requirements can be very different. Young and old alike may be disconcerted when you occasionally forget what you ate for lunch or the name of someone you had just been speaking with, that is a far cry from not recognizing your family members or yourself.

Fortunately, some good news was recently reported during the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference (AAIC) in Vancouver, Canada. According to the July 18, 2012 press release, Newly Reported Research Advances from the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference 2012, “four studies “begin to clarify exactly which types of physical activity are most effective, how much needs to be done, and for how long” to improve mental functions and reduce the risk of cognitive impairment and dementia in older adults who are currently cognitively healthy or who have mild cognitive impairment.

According to AAIC, “where previous research showed positive associations between aerobic activity, particularly walking, and cognitive health, these reports suggest that resistance training is emerging as particularly valuable for older adults. It is generally accepted that regular physical activity is essential to healthy aging; it also may prove to be a strategy to delay or prevent the onset of cognitive impairment and dementia.”

In other words, an older adult is currently mentally healthy or is experiencing only mild cognitive impairment, such as “problems with memory, language, thinking and judgment that are greater than typical age-related changes,” may experience measurable benefits from a regular, but varied, exercise routine featuring resistance, aerobic and balance-stretching training.

Dr. George Grossberg, the Samuel A. Fordyce Professor of neurology and psychiatry at the Saint Louis University School of Medicine, concurred with the findings of AAIC studies. In his ABC News article, Alzheimer’s Disease: Exercise May Reduce ’Senior Moments’, Dr. Grossberg stated, “regular exercise is a tool that Alzheimer’s patients and their at-risk family members can use to improve memory and brain functions and possibly to delay or decrease the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.”

While many fitness enthusiasts have long touted the benefits of exercise for both the body and mind, it appears that science is finally backing them up. While incorporating some form of exercise into your daily life is generally a good idea, please consult your doctor before starting any new exercise routine.

If the time has come that you or a family member is no longer able to maintain an independent lifestyle, contact ElderLink to discuss elder care services and options available throughout California.