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Health and wellbeing series - exercise and brain health

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Published Wednesday 31 October 2018
  • Aged Care

We all know exercise is good for us, right? There are plenty of reasons to be physically active (think weight control, reducing the odds of heart disease, diabetes and stroke, maintaining muscle tone and balance, helping with mood etc).

We now also know that exercise changes the brain in ways that can help protect memory and thinking skills. Studies have shown that aerobic exercise (the sort that gets your heart pumping) appears to boost the size of the hippocampus, the area of the brain involved in verbal memory and learning.

This finding comes at a critical time, with the number of older adults being diagnosed with dementia increasing at an alarming rate.

How much exercise is needed to boost memory? In the study, participants walked briskly for one hour, twice a week.  That’s 120 minutes of moderate intensity exercise a week.

If you haven’t done much exercise for a while, the first step is to discuss it with your doctor and get the all-clear to start some new exercise activities.

Standard exercise recommendations advise half an hour of moderate physical activity most days of the week, or 150 minutes a week. If that seems daunting, start with a just few minutes a day, and increase the amount you exercise by five or 10 minutes every week until you reach your goal.

Other moderate-intensity activities include cycling, swimming, dancing, tennis and squash. And don’t forget those household activities such as sweeping, mopping the floor and raking leaves, too!

The health and wellbeing series is brought to you by WMQ's allied health team.

We offer allied health services to both residential aged care residents and to the wider community through our therapy centres. To find out more about the services we can offer you, visit our therapy, respite and wellness webpage or phone us on 1300 541 648 or email: contactus@wmq.org.au.

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