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Exercise May Stave Off Mental Decline
Date:1/11/2010

Regular workouts protected cognitive function of older adults in two studies

FRIDAY, Jan. 8 (HealthDay News) -- Exercise appears to help prevent and improve mild cognitive impairment, two new studies show.

Researchers found that people who did moderate physical activity in midlife or later had a reduced risk of mild cognitive impairment and that six months of high-intensity aerobic exercise improved cognitive function in people with mild cognitive impairment.

Mild cognitive impairment is an in-between state between the normal changes in thinking, learning and memory changes that come with age and dementia, one of the studies explained. Up to 15 percent of people with mild cognitive impairment develop dementia each year, compared with 1 percent or 2 percent of the general population.

The first study included 1,324 dementia-free volunteers taking part in the Mayo Clinic Study of Aging. The participants completed a physical exercise questionnaire and were assessed and classified as having normal cognition (1,126) or mild cognitive impairment (198).

Those who said they did moderate exercise -- such as swimming, brisk walking, yoga, aerobics or strength training -- during midlife were 39 percent less likely to have mild cognitive impairment, while those who did moderate exercise later in life were 32 percent less likely to have the condition.

The Mayo team said exercise may guard against mild cognitive impairment through production of nerve-protecting compounds, increased blood flow to the brain, improved development and survival of neurons, and decreased risk of heart and blood vessel diseases.

The second study included 33 adults, average age 70, with mild cognitive impairment. Some were randomly assigned to do high-intensity aerobics for 45 to 60 minutes a day, four days a week. Others were put in a control group that had the same workout schedule, but did stretching exercises and kept t
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