Exercise for over 50s helps heart and brain

​​ExerciseNZ media release: 13th July 2021

New research says regular exercise can help slow the progression to Alzheimer's disease as well as improve the heart and brain.

Regular exercise helps the brain form new neural connections, generates cell growth and sends blood rushing to crucial areas of the brain that tend to lose blood over time.

This is a another reason why it's important that people make exercise a priority once over 50 years old.

ExerciseNZ chief executive Richard Beddie says scientists have known for some time that exercise reduces the risk of developing dementia, but they did not know if there was a direct link or whether ill people were simply unable to be physically active.

Degenerative diseases such as dementia affects tens of thousands of Kiwis or around one to two percent of those in their 60s and up to 30 percent of those over the age of 85, Beddie says.

“The most common form of dementia is Alzheimer’s and there is growing evidence that exercise is not only preventative, but rehabilitative too, and helps those living with dementia from living more fulfilling lives.

“What’s clear is that exercise is not only beneficial but essential in the prevention and treatment of so many long-term health conditions,” Beddie says.

“As dementia is estimated to effect 70,000 Kiwis and its symptoms are life changing for many. But we can prevent this which is great news. Unfortunately, we don’t start from a good base with around 50 percent of Kiwi adults not getting enough physical activity according to the World Health Organisation. “Our mission is to bring the benefits of exercise to as many kiwis as possible - and this is just another reason to get and keep active”.

One study of people over the age of 54 - published in the journal Economics & Human Biology - found working out just once a week was helpful at protecting against dementia and staying cognitively sharp.

Another recent study of cognitively impaired older adults - published in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease - found that taking brisk, half-hour walks promotes healthy blood flow to the brain and improves performance while boosting memory function.

A more recent study published in the journal Alzheimer's Research & Therapy showed that doing at least two 10 minutes sessions a week for people over 60 can help the brain in profound ways. The purpose of the study was to investigate the effects of exercise on those who suffer from mild cognitive impairment, as those who suffer from memory issues are likely to develop Alzheimer's disease. The researchers at the Yonsei University College of Medicine in South Korea, analysed data of 247,149 people between the ages of 64 and 69 in Korea with mild cognitive impairment over the course of six years. The results showed exercise really helps.