Brisk walking reversed stiff arteries and increased blood flow to the brain in people with mild memory loss, according to a new study.
U.S. research also reportedly found that participants who engaged in brisk walking over the course of a year performed better on executive function tests, which are thinking skills involved in planning and decision-making. .
All of the study participants were diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment (MCI).
Some people have dropped out of school. Of those who did, no further cognitive decline was reported.
Why this is a very good thing
One in five people aged 65 and over have some level of mild cognitive impairment (MCI) – small changes in the brain that affect memory, decision making, or reasoning skills.
Studies suggest that 10 to 20 percent of people with MCI will progress quickly to dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease.
Additionally, lower levels of blood flow to the brain and more rigid blood vessels leading to the brain have been shown to be associated with MCI and dementia.
Studies have suggested that regular aerobic exercise can help improve cognition and memory in healthy older people.
The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center (UTSW) experiment sought to establish whether there is a direct link between exercise, stiffer blood vessels, and cerebral blood flow.
Dr. C. Munro Cullum, professor of psychiatry at UTSW and co-lead author of the study, said: “There is still a lot we don’t know about the effects of exercise on cognitive decline anymore. late in life.
“MCI and dementia are likely to be influenced by a complex interplay of many factors, and we believe that, at least for some people, exercise is one of those factors.”
This is how they made the connection
According to a UTS statement, researchers recruited 70 men and women, aged 55 to 80, who had been diagnosed with MCI. Participants underwent cognitive exams, fitness tests, and brain magnetic resonance imaging scans.
Then, they were randomly assigned to follow a moderate aerobic exercise program or a stretching program for one year. The exercise program consisted of three to five exercise sessions per week, each with 30 to 40 minutes of moderate exercise such as a brisk walk.
In both programs, exercise physiologists supervised participants for the first four to six weeks, then asked patients to record their exercises and wear a heart rate monitor during the exercise.
Twenty-two people dropped out, most of them from the aerobic exercise group.
However, it was the aerobic exercise group that benefited from a decrease in the stiffness of the blood vessels in their necks and an increase in overall blood flow to the brain.
The more their oxygen uptake (a marker of aerobic capacity) increased, the greater the changes in blood vessel stiffness and cerebral blood flow.
No change in these measurements was found in people who completed the stretching program.
The participants did not decline cognitively, suggesting that rapid exercise could slow the decline. In fact, they didn’t see “significant changes in memory or other cognitive functions” in one way or another.
This may be due to “the small size or the short duration of the trial”. Or it may be that halting the decline is the best we can do. To answer this question, UTSW is already carrying out a larger two-year study.
We won’t forget to check it out.