Exercise, memory and dementia

Exercise is good for you and it helps to put off the effects of dementia if you’ve got it.

A neat study presented to day at the International Conference on Alzheimer’s Disease in Hawaii compared the effects of doing Tai Chi, Slow or Fast Walking and Social interaction. They found that there was no improvement on cognition for the Slow Walking group But there was an increase in cognition for all other groups and biggest improvement was for the Tai Chi group. Next were the Fast Walkers.

They also measured brain volume and found that after 8 months Tai Chi increased brain volume most out of all groups with Fast walkers next.

This is an important result as it shows just how an activity like Tai Chi which uses both physical movement and thinking, memory for patterns, concentration and visualising to complete a complex series of movements is better than simple exercise that does not require cognitive effort.

What does this mean for middle aged and older people? Engage in something that is going to exercise your brain as well as your body. The aerobic exercise is good but the mind-body task of Tai Chi is much better.

The increase in brain volume is another support for the plasticity of the brain – the brain can grow new connections, and build new growth to support new challenges. That’s the way we learn and our brain can do it.