Could Exercise Slow Cognitive Decline?
If you're browsing online to find a gym to join, or looking for a Personal Trainer to help you get into shape, you'll doubtless notice the endless stream of super lean bodies and before & after pictures that adorn most web pages. Yes, our industry sells fitness, and fitness is often measured in pounds, kilograms and percentages of body fat, so we select imagery and sound-bites that market this accordingly.
Now I know people want to look good, and I know this is what drives most people through gym doors - mine included; but what about the often unsung benefits that, for many, might outshine those of a purely aesthetic nature. Rarely do I see marketing in mainstream fitness that promotes its myriad health benefits with quite the same gusto as it does with physical appearance. Maybe these benefits are seen as less glamorous, or simply less tangible in the minds of marketeers, and so are avoided through fear of alienating the traditional fitness market.
One benefit of exercise that's emerging with recent research is its ability, when combined with other lifestyle interventions, to improve mental function in those at risk of dementia. An important benefit indeed, given that the incidence of dementia is on the rise and predicted to increase significantly over the next decade and beyond - according to the Alzheimer's Society. In 2013, 1 in every 14 of the UK population over 65 had dementia (research conducted for Dementia UK: second edition by Alzheimer's society, 2014). And the total number of sufferers recorded in 2013 is set to increase by 40% by 2025 if trends continue.
In the first randomised study of its kind, researchers found that a combination of healthy diet, exercise and other lifestyle improvements led to a marked reduction in the cognitive decline of those test subjects who received the intervention.
Surely then, in an ageing population, this is another very good reason to become more active and to improve our diets - regardless of our age.