Older adults who have slower walking speeds may have increased risk for dementia

Research suggests that older adults with slower walking speeds seem to have a greater risk for dementia than those with faster walking speeds. | Journal of the American Geriatrics Society | story via ScienceDaily


Researchers examined information collected from the English Longitudinal Study of Aging. The study included adults aged 60 and older who lived in England. In their study, the researchers used information collected from 2002 to 2015. They assessed participants’ walking speed on two occasions in 2002-2003 and in 2004-2005, and whether or not the participants developed dementia after the tests from 2006-2015. Then, they compared the people who had developed dementia with those who had not.

Researchers discovered that of the nearly 4,000 older adults they studied, those with a slower walking speed had a greater risk of developing dementia. And people who experienced a faster decline in walking speed over a two-year period were also at higher risk for dementia.

Full story at ScienceDaily

Full reference: Hackett, R. A. et al. | Walking Speed, Cognitive Function, and Dementia Risk in the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing |  Journal of the American Geriatrics SocietyMarch 2018


Dancing reduces the chances of falling

Age UK is urging older people to take up activities such as dance to improve their health.

Age UK’s Wellbeing in Later Life Index shows that 1 in 10 of the over-65s in the UK are regularly dancing and attending dance classes. The majority are women, many of them divorcees and widows. Dancing is a highly sociable activity and it may well be that for many of these older dancers, the opportunity to meet new friends is a major attraction of getting involved.

By participating in dance classes, these older people are also doing a lot to reduce their risks of falling, since research has found that just an hour of dancing a week lowers the chances of having a fall.

  • Falls and fractures among the over-65s account for over 4 million hospital bed days each year in England alone and are a serious threat to older people’s self-confidence and independence.
  • About 1 in 10 older people who have fallen are afraid to leave their homes in case they fall again.

Age UK is therefore urging older people to take up activities such as dance to improve their health.  Research with older people has found that dance classes are much more popular and engaging than traditional falls prevention programmes, which can seem rather dull.

Dancing and other forms of physical activity also help to keep the brain as well as the body in good working order as we age. In addition to the physical benefits, Age UK’s Wellbeing Index found that participating in ‘creative activities’ of all kinds, including dancing, was the single most effective thing any older person could do to improve their sense of ‘wellbeing’.

Full story at Age UK

Poor fitness linked to weaker brain fibre, higher dementia risk

New research supports the hypothesis that improving people’s fitness may improve their brain health and slow down the aging process | Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease | via ScienceDaily


A new study has provided more evidence to suggest that exercise improves brain health and could be a lifesaving ingredient that prevents Alzheimer’s disease. Published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, the study suggests that the lower the fitness level, the faster the deterioration of vital nerve fibres in the brain.

This deterioration results in cognitive decline, including memory issues characteristic of dementia patients.

The research focused on a type of brain tissue called white matter, which is composed of millions of bundles of nerve fibres used by neurons to communicate across the brain.

Older patients at high risk to develop Alzheimer’s disease and who had early signs of memory loss, or mild cognitive impairment (MCI) were enrolled. The researchers determined that lower fitness levels were associated with weaker white matter, which in turn correlated with lower brain function.

Further detail at ScienceDaily

Full reference: Ding, K. et al. | Cardiorespiratory Fitness and White Matter Neuronal Fiber Integrity in Mild Cognitive Impairment | Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, Vol 61 (2): 729 – 739

High-intensity exercise boosts memory, new research suggests

Heisz, J. et al. The Effects of Physical Exercise and Cognitive Training on Memory and Neurotrophic Factors. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 2017; 29 (11) | story via ScienceDaily


The health advantages of high-intensity exercise are widely known but new research from McMaster University points to another major benefit: better memory.

The findings could have implications for an aging population which is grappling with the growing problem of catastrophic diseases such as dementia and Alzheimer’s.

Scientists have found that six weeks of intense exercise — short bouts of interval training over the course of 20 minutes — showed significant improvements in what is known as high-interference memory, which, for example, allows us to distinguish our car from another of the same make and model.

The findings are important because memory performance of the study participants, who were all healthy young adults, increased over a relatively short period of time, say researchers.

The study is published in the Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience

Full story at ScienceDaily


Exercising can protect the brain from Alzheimer’s disease

Physical activity is associated with a reduced risk of Alzheimer’s disease, a new study concludes. 


Research published in BMC Public Health also confirmed that regular physical activity may improve the performance of daily activities for people afflicted with Alzheimer’s.

Authors looked at data from more than 150 research articles about the impact of physical activity on people with Alzheimer’s. Some of the work explored how physical activity improves the patient’s quality of life and the others examined the risk of developing Alzheimer’s based on the amount of activity in which an individual participated.

The authors concluded that regular physical activity improves activities of daily living and mobility in older adults with Alzheimer’s and may improve general cognition and balance. They also established that older adults not diagnosed with Alzheimer’s who are physically active, were significantly less likely to develop the disease compared to people who were inactive.

Full reference: Martin Ginis, K. et. al. Formulation of evidence-based messages to promote the use of physical activity to prevent and manage Alzheimer’s disease.  BMC Public Health. 2017 17:209.

Story via Science Daily

Aerobic and resistance exercises can improve thinking skills of the over 50s

Researchers reviewed 39 studies published up to the end of 2016 to assess the potential impact of varying types, intensities, and durations of exercise on the brain health of the over 50s | Alzheimer’s Society


Dr Doug Brown, Director of Research at Alzheimer’s Society, said:

‘The benefits of regular exercise to keep a sharp mind are becoming clearer. Previous studies show that people who exercise are less likely to develop dementia, but more research is needed to find out exactly what type and how much exercise is best to help reduce your risk of the condition.’

‘In this study, researchers reviewed results from 39 trials of people in their 50s who were given supervised exercise programmes. Taking up moderate or vigorous exercise improved people’s performance on tests of thinking skills, but the study didn’t look at whether this reduced their likelihood of developing dementia.’

Read the original research article here

Outdoor access for people living with dementia

Elaine Argyle, Tom Dening & Peter Bartlett (2016): Space, the final
frontier: outdoor access for people living with dementia, Aging & Mental Health, DOI:


Studies have consistently found that access to outdoor space has a positive impact on the mental and physical well-being of people with dementia. Benefits are often linked to an affinity with nature and outdoor settings.

Specific benefits of going outside expressed by people with dementia include interaction with others, aesthetic appreciation, exercise and a sense of freedom. For those living in care homes, where privacy tends to be lacking, additional benefits of outdoor access can also potentially include the experience of being alone and in a peaceful place.

This editorial suggests that access to the outdoors is central to the promotion of the human rights and social inclusion of people with dementia. It also explore the barriers and facilitators to the achievement of this access.

Read the full editorial here

The effect of physical activity on cognitive function in patients with dementia: A meta-analysis of randomized control trials.

Groot, C. et al. Ageing Research Reviews. 2016 Jan;25:13-23

Social Care Photography, Department of Health


Non-pharmacological therapies, such as physical activity interventions, are an appealing alternative or add-on to current pharmacological treatment of cognitive symptoms in patients with dementia.

In this meta-analysis, we investigated the effect of physical activity interventions on cognitive function in dementia patients, by synthesizing data from 802 patients included in 18 randomized control trials that applied a physical activity intervention with cognitive function as an outcome measure. Post-intervention standardized mean difference (SMD) scores were computed for each study, and combined into pooled effect sizes using random effects meta-analysis.

The primary analysis yielded a positive overall effect of physical activity interventions on cognitive function (SMD[95% confidence interval]=0.42[0.23;0.62], p<.01).

Secondary analyses revealed that physical activity interventions were equally beneficial in patients with Alzheimer’s disease (AD, SMD=0.38[0.09;0.66], p<.01) and in patients with AD or a non-AD dementia diagnosis (SMD=0.47[0.14;0.80], p<.01). Combined (i.e. aerobic and non-aerobic) exercise interventions (SMD=0.59[0.32;0.86], p<.01) and aerobic-only exercise interventions (SMD=0.41[0.05;0.76], p<.05) had a positive effect on cognition, while this association was absent for non-aerobic exercise interventions (SMD=-0.10[-0.38;0.19], p=.51).

Finally, we found that interventions offered at both high frequency (SMD=0.33[0.03;0.63], p<.05) and at low frequency (SMD=0.64[0.39;0.89], p<.01) had a positive effect on cognitive function.

This meta-analysis suggests that physical activity interventions positively influence cognitive function in patients with dementia. This beneficial effect was independent of the clinical diagnosis and the frequency of the intervention, and was driven by interventions that included aerobic exercise.

Read the abstract here

Nearly two thirds of Britons (64%) not aware exercise could help reduce risk of dementia

Almost eight in ten people (79%) are not doing the amount of average weekly exercise recommended by NHS guidelines, despite evidence that regular exercise can reduce a person’s risk of dementia.

This is according to a survey carried out by Alzheimer’s Society to mark the start of Memory Walks on Saturday.

Research shows that taking regular exercise is one of the best things that can be done to reduce the risk of getting dementia, yet 64% of people surveyed (67% men, 62% women) didn’t know that regular exercise and physical activity could reduce the risk of people developing dementia.

More from the Alzheimers Society here