By Ruth Folger Weiss
I’m going out to have a good time and incorporate some exercise while I’m at it.
I decided it was time to leave the desk after reading the latest studies on how crucial exercising (alright, particularly in midlife) is in warding off dementia and Alzheimer’s disease decades later.
In a study of more than 1,400 adults involved in the “Cardiovascular Risk Factors, Aging, and Incidence of Dementia ” (CAIDE) project, which involved 1,449 men and women in Finland, those who were physically active in their free time during middle age were 52% less likely to develop dementia 21 years later than their sedentary counterparts. Their chance of developing Alzheimer’s disease was slashed even more, by 62%, and even stronger in those carrying the ApoE e4 gene, which is associated with a higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.
“Free Time” is the definitive term here; exercise done as occupational activity, such as heavy lifting, didn’t have the same protective effect as leisure-time exercise have the same effect.
Suvi Rovio, MSc, a researcher at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden, concurs. “By being physically active in midlife, people who carry the ApoE e4 gene can lower their risk of Alzheimer’s to the same level as someone not carrying the gene.”
But Maria Carrillo, PhD, director of medical scientific relations at the Alzheimer’s Association, says that physical exercise “does not have to be strenuous or even require a major time commitment. It is most effective when done regularly, and in combination with a brain-healthy diet, mental activity, and social interaction.
“We know that physical exercise is essential for maintaining good blood flow to the brain as well as to encourage the development of new brain cells. “It also can significantly reduce the risk of heart attack, stroke, and diabetes, and thereby protect against those risk factors for Alzheimer’s and other dementias.”