The new set of guidelines recommends how much and what type of physical activity can make a difference in improving brain health and function.
Research led by University of Melbourne and funded by the Dementia Collaborative Research Centres (DCRC), shows older people should, in consultation with their doctor, engage in:
It’s important to discuss any changes to your physical activity with your doctor (or physiotherapist or exercise physiologist) before embarking on changes to your exercise regime.
University of Melbourne Professor of Psychiatry of Old Age Nicola Lautenschlager said older people who regularly participate in physical activity experience health benefits such as improved cognitive outcomes, physical health and physical function.
“Many older people with cognitive impairment or decline lack the confidence to start or increase their physical activity,” said Professor Lautenschlager.
“Start by talking to a health professional like your GP to come up with an individual plan,” she said.
“You could start with a very small amount of activity then increase it gradually. Also, doing physical activity with someone else and choosing something fun can help you stay active and makes getting started less daunting.”
Professor Lautenschlager said research into how physical activity affects brain health was relatively young and many details about the underlying mechanisms remain unknown.
“Current evidence suggests that physical activity can protect the brain through indirect effects, such as by lowering the blood pressure and increasing heart health or through direct effects, such as stimulating activities of nerve cells via release of specific chemicals directly in the brain.
“So many countries already had guidelines for healthy people of all ages, but these Australian guidelines are the first of their kind as they are specifically for people who have noticed changes to their memory and cognition with aging and are therefore at increased risk to develop cognitive decline or dementia in the future,” said Professor Lautenschlager.
Start low and go slow – there is no need to add in vigorous activity when you’re getting started as this can cause injuries. Starting with an outdoor walk is a good start.
Arrange activities with your friends or join a group where you can meet new friends.
Keep a diary or use a calendar to keep yourself accountable and track your progress. This can remind you how far you’ve come since you started.
Make sure you have well-fitting and comfortable shoes and clothing to exercise in.
If you need help with safe exercises, get in contact with an exercise physiologist who can develop an exercise plan that’s right for you.
This blog post first appeared on Envigor’s blog.