Not only heart strokes, but regular exercise of in middle age – from walking to running or even simple home exercises – can also help you overcome typical memory loss problems that are likely to come up later in life.

The findings are thanks to a 20-year study in the field, conducted by the University of Melbourne in Australia. “The message from our study is very simple. Do more physical activity, it doesn’t matter what, just move more and more often. It helps your heart, your body and prevents obesity and diabetes and now we know it can help your brain,” study author Cassandra Szoeke, associate professor, is quoted as saying.

Exercise doesn’t have to be expansive or of high intensity. It could be something as simple as running or jogging regularly, and making sure you are walking when the opportunity arises, instead of relying on machines such as lifts, elevators or even your vehicle for short distances. “It could even be something as simple as going for a walk, we weren’t restrictive in our study about what type,” Szoeke added.

For over 20 years, the team of researchers followed the lifestyle of 387 Australian women from the Women’s Healthy Ageing Project.
They were aged between 45 and 55 when the study began in 1992. Notes were made about their lifestyle, exercise patterns and diet regime. They were then put through an Episodic Verbal Memory test of learning a list of 10 unrelated words, and recalling them half an hour later.

The findings showed that frequent physical activity, normal blood pressure and high good cholesterol are strongly linked with better recall of the words in the test. They further posit that regular exercise could protect people from dementia or dementia-like diseases which impair memory.  “We now know that brain changes associated with dementia take 20 to 30 years to develop,” Szoeke added in a release.

Cumulative exercise was shown to be most effective with subjects’ memory being stronger when they have exercised for a longer time over a number of years.

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