Keeping Physically Active may help to Preserve Memory in Seniors

Keep Moving! (NIA)

Seniors who move a lot, whether from physical exercise or through routine physical activity like housework, seem to have better memory function according to a recent study published January 16, 2019 in Neurology.

Researchers from Rush University Medical Center found that seniors who move around a lot may have better memory function, even if they have biomarkers or brain lesions that are associated with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease (AD). The results showed that a more physically active lifestyle may have a protective effect on the brain. This was shown as an association and not a direct cause and effect.

The Study

There were 454 community-living senior participants in the study. Out of the 454, there were 191 who had dementia and 263 who did not have dementia. The participants had physical exams and thinking and memory tests every year for a total of 20 years. They also wore special devices on their wrists that monitored their physical activity continually around the clock. The study did not list the kinds of physical activity these seniors participated in, so there is no way of deciding which kind of activity is best or more beneficial.

The researchers also examined 454 brain autopsies from the deceased seniors who had agreed to donate brain tissue. They discovered that higher levels of total daily physical activity were associated with better memory function, even in cases where people had Alzheimer’s.

More Research is Needed

The researchers concluded that more studies are needed to find a cause and effect of physical activity on the brain and to discover just how it protects the brain.

National Institute on Aging Guidelines for Seniors to Maintain Good Cognitive Health

The National Institute on Aging (NIA) has a guide that focuses on cognitive health and how to maintain it. Here are some of their suggestions:

Take Good Care of your Health

  • Do recommended health screenings
  • Keep blood pressure, diabetes, depression and high cholesterol under control
  • Discuss with your doctor any possible side effects such as sleep disturbances and memory problems that you might be experiencing from prescribed drugs.
  • Try to lower risk for unintentional falls. Make sure you wear sturdy shoes or boots with non-slip soles.
  • Cut down or cut out alcoholic beverages. Alcohol can interact badly with many prescribed drugs.
  • Quit smoking
  • Make sure to get a good night’s sleep of 7-8 hours

Follow a Healthy Diet

Follow a healthy diet like the Mediterranean Diet. Eat a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains and legumes. Eat more fish and less red meat. Avoid processed meat, as processed meat has been associated with a high risk for colorectal cancer. Eat fermented dairy products like yogurt.

A new diet called MIND which is a combination of the Mediterranean Diet and the DASH diet may be the best one for the mind. The DASH diet is designed to lower blood pressure.

Stay Physically Active

The NIA has a Go4Life website where you can get all kinds of free exercises, tips, workouts and videos to help you stay fit.

Stay Mentally Active

Participate in all kinds of activities that you like. Keep your mind busy. Engage in hand crafts like quilting and knitting, photography, reading, games, volunteer work and whatever else interests you.

Stay Connected with Family and Friends

Connect with new friends by participating in social activities and community programs at your senior center.

The Van Duyn Center for Rehabilitation and Nursing in Syracuse, New York

If you or your loved one are in need of a short-term rehabilitation or long-term skilled nursing facility, then choose one that offers plenty of recreational activities, good healthy meals and fine amenities like the Van Duyn Center for Rehabilitation and Nursing in Syracuse, New York.


This study and others point to keeping physically active as beneficial for maintaining memory. Just do not be a couch potato. Get up and move around, even if you spend most of your time at home.

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