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Staying Sharp: Exercise keeps Alzheimer’s at bay

If you want to keep mentally sharp into your later years, start walking or running.  According to the first ever study into the link between mental cognition and physical activity, researchers have discovered that regular exercise in middle-age can help prevent dementia and Alzheimer’s.

It’s enough to walk for 50 minutes a day, three days a week to reduce your chances of mental decline, researchers have found.

They tested the theory on a group of 170 individuals aged 50 or older, who were in reasonable health.  Half were assigned to minimal activity over a 24-week period, and the rest had to perform some physical activity that lasted for at least 50 minutes, and which they did three times a week.  Most in the activity group decided to walk for 50 minutes, although some included light strength-training exercises.

During the six months, those in the activity group improved their score on a cognitive test by 1.3 points compared with those who were inactive; by comparison, people taking the anti-Alzheimer’s drug Aricept (donepezil) see an improvement of just 0.5 points when they use the same test.

The benefits continued for 18 months afterwards.


  • Journal of the American Medical Association, 2008; 300: 1027-37