Effects of exercise on dementia

Exercise and physical activity have many positive effects on your health. Being physically active may also have an effect on your mental, emotional, and cognitive health. Many cognitive conditions concern one’s age and its neurological effects.

These include conditions such as alzheimers, dementia, and other conditions. Can physical activity assist in decreasing the occurrence of these conditions ? Many mental or cognitive conditions are thought to be associated with nutrition or activity level. Here we go over the effects of exercise on dementia as well as mental and psychological factors.

Aerobic training assist in strength and the efficiency of the use of oxygen. Since this occurs in the brain as well, it makes sense for it to assist in cognitive functioning. The aspects are not only physical, but there are also psychological factors involved. The bodies releases endorphins when you exercise, gives you a sense of well-being. Activity and nutrition when put with current treatment may decrease the progression of these conditions.

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Some studies or reviews point to this therapy as having a positive effect on cognition and memory (4), while others show no cognitive effect (3,5). Using exercise as a therapy not only effects the individual, but it could also help decrease the costs of health care in the older population (1). Level of activity may not only help to treat dementia, but other conditions such as stroke patients. There are different effects that a stroke can have on people, these include both psychological and social factors such as social support, belief in one’s’ self-worth being used as ways to evaluate the health of the subject (2). Exercise could assist in all of these factors.

Many tests have been done on dementia. There are numerous factors that can play a role in results that are seen in testing. This includes the population tested, gender, previous activity level, current medical conditions, tests used, intensity of the tests (7), or the time frame. In one study, the Chinese population were looked at over nine years. Seventy five hundred subjects that were dementia free at the beginning of the study were used. From these, three hundred and thirty-eight developed dementia during the nine years. The results showed the positive effects of exercise on dementia since those physically active had a lower risk of developing the condition (13).

Overall quality of life and activities of daily living are both important when looking at in maintaining one’s independence. This includes the psychological, spiritual, and physical aspects of life. Being able to perform activities of daily living increases one’s independence and quality of life.

In one study, the effects of physical activity on cognitive function and activities of daily living for dementia patients were examined. Two groups of thirty people used a cognition program three times a week for thirty minutes each session. This lasted eight weeks. One group included physical activity for thirty minutes three times a week. Results showed the group including physical activity increased their abilities more in activities of daily living. This suggests combining both cognitive testing along with physical activity to increase cognition and activities of daily living (11).

Living in a community where you have similar interest to others is also a positive asset to have. Relationships and activities will bring encouragement and increase your sense of self-worth. Even for those living in nursing homes exercise can be effective in increasing one’s sense of self-worth and understanding the importance of exercise. In one study, residence were used to find out the effectiveness of exercise on one’s’ quality of life. Twenty one people age seventy-four to ninety-six used every day task movements for exercises. Exercises were also individualized based on the persons’ needs. Questioners used assisted in knowing the persons’ opinion on exercise. This included the exercises being challenging but achievable, pleasurable due to strength increase, invoking previous memories of health, as well as providing comfort, encouragement, and joy. Results showed that each of these four aspects improved (14).  The effects of exercise on dementia not only increases quality of life, but even decrease or reverse its effects during the early onset stages of alzheimers (8,10).

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Variables such as verbal memory, naming, wording memory, and other specific aspects of memory are also used for cognition testing. Each of these methods concerning questionnaires on memory factors are very effective (12). Although not practical for most cases, medical equipment can also be used to get actual neurological results on variables tested (9). Ones’ level of current health and other medical conditions could also play a factor in the physical aspect of brain activity concerning cognition, processing speed, and level or duration of attention. When treated with physical activity and exercise, a positive effect on these variables is possible (6).

Any type of cognitive condition has a negative effect whether it is physical, mental, or emotional. This can be seen through one’s ability to do daily tasks and overall quality of life. There are different treatments used for cognitive disorders such as dementia. These include drugs, psychological therapy, as well as physical activity. All of these treatments are effective. Using a cognitive therapy along with physical activity may be comparable to being treated using drugs alone. Overall, putting cognitive tests together with physical activity should be a part of any treatment for dementia to assist with current therapies being used.





  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15468033#
  2. https://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.k1675
  3. https://doi.org/10.3389/fnhum.2017.00107
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5945889/#
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5934999/#
  6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5931155/#
  7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5866875/#