During the study, the participants were asked about depression, quality of life and their ability to do common activities.
After three years, the researchers found 90 patients had developed dementia, including 54 with vascular dementia and 34 with the brain-robbing condition known as Alzheimer’s disease. Another 147 displayed problems with mental ability, but not dementia, the researchers reported.
“We strongly suggest physical activity of moderate intensity at least 30 minutes three times a week to prevent cognitive [thinking] impairment,” Verdelho said in a journal news release. “This is particularly important for people with vascular risk factors such as [high blood pressure], stroke or diabetes.”
Ideally, the American Heart Association suggests men and women should engage in 150 minutes of moderate exercise every week or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise.
Among study participants, regular exercise was effective regardless of age, education, changes in the brain, or a history of stroke, the researchers noted.
Dr. David Katz, director of the Yale University Prevention Research Center, said it’s known that Alzheimer’s and vascular dementia share risk factors with other chronic diseases, such as coronary disease.
“We have long had reason to believe that the same lifestyle practices that defend against diabetes and heart disease defend against dementia as well,” he said.
This study reaffirms that important association, Katz said.
“The health of the body and brain are indelibly linked, and caring well for the one benefits the other. One may think that exercise is mostly about conditioning muscles, but this study suggests it is just as important for preserving a well-functioning mind,” he said.