Memory Loss and Exercise

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Memory Loss and Exercise


Today I’d like to talk about our recent research article that I read that had to do with cognitive decline, dementia and Alzheimer’s disease and things that we can do on our own, which can potentially help at least cognitive decline at the beginning. But before we get started, if you ever have any questions about an estate planning or probate matter, you can always set up an appointment with me at we can chat on the phone, chat by video conference or you can come into the office and we can discuss your concerns.

So this whole cognitive decline thing is really starting to come to roost in my life for a couple of reasons: (1) because I’ve been seeing a lot of folks coming in and wanting to manage their estate plans and look at potential issues that might happen should they or their family members have to go into a nursing home later as they age; and  (2) I’m on the North end of 55 approaching 60 and at that time in your life, you start to have those senior moments. Occasionally we want to recall something and its right there, but we can’t immediately articulate the thought.  we’re trying to grab something that’s still out there and we know what’s in our mind, but we can’t come up with the word and things along those lines.

There was a recent article that came out which actually tested the different modalities that we may use in order to help slow down cognitive decline.  In order to put this potential problem into perspective, right now, there are about 47 million folks worldwide who suffer with some type of cognitive decline or dementia. And what the studies show is that  in the next 30 years, by the year 2050, the number will be 150 million folks. There are a number of factors for the reason the experts believe the number will be so high: (1) We’re getting better at diagnosing dementia or cognitive decline; (2) memory loss, dementia and Alzheimer’s are not as taboo, people are talking about more, and (3) folks around the world are living longer.

The Memory Study

This study looked at different ways or modalities that may impact cognitive decline. First, the study did some base line brain imaging.  It looked at areas of the brain that are known to show changes when folks start to lose their memory and show cognitive decline. One of the areas in the brain is the hippocampus. Now I’m sure that you’ve probably seen stuff on TV regarding exercising the brain with computer programs. You may have heard the term neuroplasticity, and the theory is that if work the memory centers of the brain with computer exercises and gains, it will change the structure of the cells and neurotransmitters and slow decline. The thought is sort of like exercising a muscle. If you challenge a muscle with strength training, it is going to cause the muscle to increase in size and strength. In the study, they used the acronym “CCT” Computer Cognitive Training.

The second intervention was physical resistance training and 80% of capacity. They used machine that were pneumatic, or resistance based on air at 80% capacity. You  could probably use any type of machinery in a health club or a gym or even free weights as long as you are able to, or you have somebody watching you to make sure that you’re doing it correctly and have progressive resistance.

The third intervention was CCT and progressive resistance exercise.

The Memory Study’s Findings

What did this study show? There was a significant difference in the group that did progressive resistance training by itself. So, what that means for all of us who might be starting to get senior moments is we need to get out there, we need to exercise, and we need to do resistance exercise. Walking is great. Walking is good for your heart, but walking is not all that needs to be done. You need to do some resistance training, whether it’s weightlifting, whether it’s using machines, whether it’s doing some type of yoga, where you have body weight resistance or things along those lines. There is no substitute for physical resistance training when it comes to your body. But more importantly, when it comes to your mind, this study suggests that if you really want to make an impact, you have to start the exercise as early has possible. If someone has end stage dementia or far along in the process of the Alzheimer’s spectrum, the impact will not be as great. But if you or a family member has been recently diagnosed with mild cognitive deficit or just diagnosed with Alzheimer’s get out there and do progressive resistance training, it certainly can’t hurt, and it may add years to  you or your loved one’s ability to function.

So, when should we all start progressive resistance training? Today? It’s going to help your body and help your mind.