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Elderly People Can Protect Their Aging Brain From Dementia With Housework, Exercise

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The aging brain becomes more vulnerable to dementia, a neurological disorder characterized by memory problems, impaired reasoning, and personality changes.

A new study, however, shows older adults who move more than average are able to maintain more of their memory and thinking skills compared with their peers who are less active than average.

Activity Score And Cognition

In the study published in Neurology on Jan. 16, Aron Buchman, from the Department of Neurological Sciences at Rush University Medical Center, and colleagues looked at the data of 454 older adults who were at least 70 years old at the start of the study.

The participants took physical exams, and thinking and memory tests every year for a period of 20 years. In the last few years prior to their death, each participant wore an accelerometer, which measured their physical activities 24 hours a day.

The activity monitor tracked everything from small movements that include walking around the house to engaging in exercise routines.

Researchers then evaluated 10 days of movement data and calculated an average daily activity score. They found an association between higher levels of daily movement, and thinking and memory skills based on the outcome of the annual cognitive tests.

Benefit Persists Even For Seniors With Biomarkers Of Alzheimer's

Buchman and colleagues also said that moving more can benefit older adults even if they already have the biomarkers associated with dementia.

Analyses of the participants' brain after their death revealed the association between cognition and movement in the form of daily exercise or having routine physical activities such as housework persists even for those with at least three signs of Alzheimer's disease.

These elderly individuals may have been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease, but 30 percent of them had what can be considered normal cognition at the time of their death.

"The associations of total daily activity and motor abilities with cognition did not vary in individuals with and without dementia," the researchers wrote in their study.

Light Activities Such As Doing House Chores Can Make A Difference

The researchers also said that while intense activities and exercises are highly beneficial, engaging in light activities can still make a difference.

"As long as you have some activity and you're moving, whether you're chopping onions, typing, sweeping the floor or even running," Buchman said.

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