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How does exercise help reduce dementia risk?

Discover the recommended exercises for brain health and cognitive function, including aerobic workouts, strength training, and balance exercises

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Picture this: a brisk walk on a sunny morning, a game of tennis with a friend, or a joyful dance class. 

These activities not only energise your body but also have a profound impact on your brain health. 

Yes, you heard it right! 

Exercise is a key player in the fight against dementia, helping to prevent its onset and keeping your mind sharp as a tack.

But how exactly does exercise work its magic? What are the mechanisms at play? Join us as we delve into the exciting world of exercise and its role in reducing your risk of cognitive decline and dementia. 

Lace up your trainers, and let's get moving!

The brain-boosting benefits of exercise

Engaging in regular physical activity offers a plethora of benefits that contribute to a healthier brain and a reduced risk of dementia.

1. Increased blood flow and oxygenation (a strong heart leads to a strong mind)

When you exercise, your heart pumps faster, delivering a fresh surge of oxygen-rich blood to your brain. This enhanced blood flow nourishes your brain cells, keeping them happy, healthy, and on their toes. 

So, get that heart pumping, and let the oxygen flow like a babbling brook in your brain!

2. Neuroprotective effects (shielding your brain like a knight in shining armour)

Exercise acts as a knight in shining armour, helping to protect your brain from the nefarious effects of dementia. It promotes the production of growth factors that strengthen the connections between brain cells, preventing their deterioration and fostering neural resilience. 

3. Reduced inflammation (let's cool down that inflammation fire)

Inflammation can wreak havoc on your brain health. 

Exercise helps reduce inflammation in your body, including the brain, calming the flames and promoting a peaceful, healthy environment for your grey matter to thrive.

4. Improved cognitive function (sharper mind, brighter days)

Exercise is like a mental workout, a brain boot camp that sharpens your cognitive skills and boosts your memory and thinking abilities. 

So, think of exercise as a brain gym, where you lift mental weights and leave with a sharper, stronger mind.

5. Mood elevation (feel the exercise-induced bliss)

Let's not forget the incredible mood-boosting powers of exercise. It's like a shot of happiness, releasing endorphins that flood your brain with joy and a sense of well-being. 

Discover five more brain benefits here.

Walking exercise for brain health and dementia prevention

So, how much exercise is enough?

Now that we've established the incredible benefits of exercise for brain health, let's dive into the world of different exercise modalities that can help keep your mind sharp and vibrant. 

From aerobic workouts that get your heart pumping to strength training that builds resilience and balance exercises that keep you steady on your feet, we've got you covered with a well-rounded exercise regimen for optimal brain health.

1. Aerobic exercise: Pump up the cardio

Aerobic exercise, also known as cardio, is like a dance party for your brain. It gets your heart rate up, increases blood flow, and oxygenates your brain, promoting the growth of new brain cells and enhancing cognitive function. 

Here are a few recommendations to get you moving:

  • Brisk walking: Take a stroll in the park or around your neighbourhood. It's low impact, accessible to all fitness levels, and a great way to get those steps in.

  • Cycling: Hop on a bike and enjoy the breeze as you pedal your way to better brain health. Whether indoors or outdoors, cycling is a fantastic aerobic workout that strengthens your heart and mind.

  • Dancing: Turn up the music and let loose on the dance floor (or in the living room). Dancing is not only fun but also a great way to improve coordination and boost your mood while getting your heart rate up.

You can get a few more ideas here on how to get fit after 50.

2. Strength training: Flex those mental muscles

Building physical strength also translates to building cognitive strength. 

Strength training exercises help maintain muscle mass, increase bone density, and promote the growth of new neurons in the brain. Here are some recommendations to add strength training to your routine:

  • Bodyweight exercises: You don't need fancy equipment to get started. Squats, lunges, push-ups, and planks are all excellent exercises that utilise your body weight as resistance.

Watch this video to get inspired:

Whole Body Strength Exercises For Seniors (No Equipment Workout) | More Life Health

  • Resistance band workouts: Invest in a set of resistance bands for a versatile and portable strength training tool. Use them for exercises like bicep curls, lateral raises, and seated rows to challenge your muscles and keep your brain sharp.

Watch this video to get inspired:

Senior Fitness - Seated Resistance Band Workout For Beginners

3. Balance exercises: Stay steady, stay sharp

Maintaining good balance is essential for preventing falls and preserving brain health. 

Balance exercises help improve stability, coordination, and spatial awareness. Here are a few exercises to incorporate into your routine:


Strike a pose and find your balance with yoga. Practices like tree pose, warrior pose, and standing balances challenge your equilibrium and strengthen both body and mind.

Watch this video 'Yoga For Seniors |  Slow and Gentle Yoga' to get inspired:

Tai Chi

This ancient Chinese practice combines slow, flowing movements with deep breathing and mindfulness. Tai Chi improves balance, reduces stress, and promotes mental clarity.

Balance exercises for brain health and dementia prevention

Watch this video 'Mayo Clinic Minute: Tai chi keeps seniors on their feet' to get inspired:

Remember, always consult with your healthcare professional before starting a new exercise program, especially if you have any underlying health conditions or concerns. 

They can provide personalised guidance based on your needs and limitations.

Mix and match for optimal brain health

To keep things exciting and maximise the benefits for your brain, aim to incorporate a combination of aerobic, strength training, and balance exercises into your routine. 

Strive for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity per week, along with two or more days of strength training and balance exercises.

And don't forget to listen to your body. 

If something doesn't feel right or causes discomfort, modify the exercise or seek guidance from a qualified fitness professional. It's all about finding what works for you and embracing the joy of movement.

Walking exercise for brain health and dementia prevention

Get moving, and stay sharp

Exercise is a powerful tool in the fight against dementia.

If you’re not sure where to start, try with just one minute of exercise.

It's a melody of benefits that sings harmoniously with your brain, keeping it strong, resilient, and in tip-top shape. Lace-up those trainers, grab a workout buddy and embark on this exhilarating adventure towards a healthier brain.

Remember, there is always time to start.

Our Five Lives app is a great place to get going. 

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