Is Exercise Medication for Your Memory?

An updated guideline for mild cognitive impairment published in the December 27 online issue of Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology, recommends twice-weekly exercise to people with mild cognitive impairment to improve memory and thinking.

“Regular physical exercise has long been shown to have heart health benefits, and now we can say exercise also may help improve memory for people with mild cognitive impairment,” says Ronald Petersen, M.D., Ph.D., lead author, director of the Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center, Mayo Clinic, and the Mayo Clinic Study of Aging. “What’s good for your heart can be good for your brain.” Dr. Petersen is the Cora Kanow Professor of Alzheimer’s Disease Research.

Does this mean that people should begin jogging or swimming endless laps in the indoor pool to improve their memory? No.

As a Certified Athletic Trainer for more than 30 years and the owner of Fitness for Health, a therapeutic fitness facility for children through senior citizens, I remind families that exercise doesn’t have to be drudgery.  People need 150 minutes of exercise a week — 30 minutes for five times a week or 50 minutes for three times a week. Exercise can be dancing in your living room, playing with your grandkids at the playground or merely talking a brisk walk around the neighborhood or mall.  Fitness can be fun!  And, it can be any activity that you enjoy that raises your heartrate.

Did you know that 6% of people in their 60s have mild cognitive impairment across the globe, and the condition becomes more common with age, according to the American Academy of Neurology?  More than 37% of people 85 and older have it.

“With such prevalence, finding lifestyle factors that may slow down the rate of cognitive impairment can make a big difference to individuals and society, Dr. Petersen wrote.  “We need not look at aging as a passive process; we can do something about the course of our aging,” he says. “So if I’m destined to become cognitively impaired at age 72, I can exercise and push that back to 75 or 78. That’s a big deal.”

Now that you know the importance of exercise for the young – and the young-at-heart, I hope to see you in the gym!

As you age, staying active mentally is just as important as staying active physically. At Fitness for Health, we can help you achieve both. Our unique approach to senior wellness focuses on helping you strengthen and maintain the skills that other workouts often overlook. Learn how our Fitness for Seniors program can help you maintain weight management, increase bone and joint health and improve your cognitive abilities.