Physical Activity Prevents Cognitive Decline

The next time your partner complains about washing the dishes, remind him or her doing them could help prevent cognitive decline.

A new study in the journal Neurology found any kind of physical activity, including household chores, could reduce your risk for Alzheimer’s disease and other brain-related deterioration.

According to lead researcher Dr. Aron S. Buchman, exercise and “other activities such as cooking, washing the dishes, and cleaning are associated with a reduced risk of Alzheimer’s disease.”

You’re probably thinking, Really, another study that shows exercise works!? After all, you don’t hear about too many studies that show exercise doesn’t work.

But this one proves significant for two reasons. One, it was the first study to objectively measure physical activity.

More specifically, researchers asked 716 people with no dementia to wear an actigraph, which measured their activity and non-activity for 10 days.

The actigraph measured any kind of physical movement, including cooking, playing cards, and even operating a wheelchair. If these participants moved, the actigraph measured it.

Participants reported their physical and social activity, but they also wore the actigraph to validate those claims, since many people overestimate or misjudge how much exercise they do otherwise.

Over the three-and-a-half year study, 71 participants developed Alzheimer’s disease.

The take home: movement counts, but intense movement matters more.

  • People who engaged in the least amount of physical activity were over twice as likely to succumb to Alzheimer’s than those who engaged in more physical activity.
  • People who exercised less intensely were almost three times more likely to get Alzheimer’s than people who did exercise intensely.

Oh, the other significant detail worth mentioning: the average age of these participants was 82.

Now, Alzheimer’s is a complex, multi-factorial disease, and experts lack any easy solutions. One thing we know for sure: a major player for any degenerative disease is inflammation.

And exercise can reduce it. A study in the Journal of Applied Physiology for instance, showed that exercise protects against chronic inflammation and disease.

I agree with Dr. Buchman’s conclusion that exercise is certainly a modifiable risk factor for neurological decline. You can’t change your genes, but you can certainly step up your physical activity.

Here’s the deal:

To be beneficial, exercise should be hard.

For too many people, hours on elliptical machines and aerobic classes become social hour rather than a workout.

You might as well take it to a bar and have a cocktail… at least the ambiance will be better!

I also hear people say they walk 30 minutes a few times each week and call it exercise. Walking is good for a zillion other things, but it’s not strenuous physical activity.

To really get exercise’s numerous benefits, including burning fat and preventing brain deterioration, you’ve got to step it up. You should push yourself to maximum intensity and be a little breathless when you’re done.

A study in the journal Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise for instance, found intense exercise for 45 minutes boosted metabolism for 14 hours post-workout and helped participants burn an additional 190 calories after that workout.

The good news is that you don’t need 45 minutes. After all, you could spend an hour on the treadmill and not get much of a workout.

I often talk about burst training, my favorite form of exercise that gives you an intense workout in just four minutes a day »

Combine burst training with weight resistance, and you’ve got the best exercise combo on the planet to burn fat, boost metabolism, build muscle, and prevent disease. In just minutes a day.

Trust me, if you’re doing it right you will feel the burn and get results that benefit your brain and waistline.