Never Too Late to Start Exercising for Brain Health
Posted on by Paula Gallagher
Many studies have demonstrated the benefits of exercise on cognition, with regular physical activity associated with a lower risk of cognitive decline and dementia in later life. Engaging in physical activity, such as aerobic exercise or strength training, has been found to improve cognitive function, including attention, memory, and executive function.
Previous studies showed that individuals who engage in physical activity during their leisure time have a lower risk of developing dementia and better cognitive function later in life than those who are sedentary. However, it was unclear whether there was a specific age at which people needed to become active or a threshold of activity necessary to reap these benefits.
However, a new study shows that if you haven’t been active all your life, it isn’t too late to start. This new study, published in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery & Psychiatry, followed almost 1,500 people for 30 years, found that while lifelong physical activity was linked to the best cognitive outcomes later in life, being active at any time and to any degree was associated with higher cognitive function. Even individuals who began exercising in their 50s or 60s had better cognitive scores when they reached 70 years old, and as little as one instance of exercise a month across adulthood was beneficial. Dr. William Roberts, a professor of family medicine and community health at the University of Minnesota Medical School, noted that small amounts of exercise across a person's life, beginning at a young age, are beneficial for long-term health.
If you have never been active before, starting a new exercise routine can be challenging. Here are some tips to help you get started:
Start small: Don't try to do too much too soon. Start with short, easy activities like walking around the block or doing some light stretching.
Find an activity you enjoy: Choose an activity that you find fun and enjoyable, whether it's dancing, hiking, swimming, or playing a sport. This will make it more likely that you will stick with it.
Set achievable goals: Set realistic goals for yourself that you can achieve, such as exercising for 10 minutes a day, 3 days a week. As you get more comfortable, you can gradually increase the duration and intensity of your workouts.
Be consistent: Try to make exercise a regular part of your routine, whether it's every day or a few times a week. Consistency is key when it comes to building new habits.
Get support: Enlist the help of a friend or family member to exercise with you or join a fitness class. Having someone to hold you accountable and provide motivation can be helpful.
Be patient: It may take time to see results, so be patient with yourself and celebrate your progress along the way.
The most important thing is to get started and to find an activity that you enjoy. With time and consistency, you can gradually build up your fitness level and enjoy the many benefits of regular exercise.
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