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Benefits of exercise for the elderly

Published: 28 Jan 2014

Significant research has been carried out that demonstrates just how beneficial exercise can be for the more elderly members of the population.

Cognitive function

One condition that is perhaps more commonly associated with elder generations is Alzheimer's disease. The Alzheimer's Society predicts as many as 650,000 people in England could have dementia, with Alzheimer’s disease - the most common cause of dementia - responsible for around 62 per cent of cases.

However, carrying out exercise has been associated with a reduced risk of dementia in older people, with an ever-growing body of evidence highlighting the link between a lack of exercise and cognitive decline.

"Physical activity has been shown to be beneficial for health and ageing in a number of areas," explained Dr Dallas Anderson, programme director for population studies in the Dementias of Aging Branch of the National Institute on Aging's Neuroscience and Neuropsychology of Aging Programme.

"This emerging association between exercise and cognitive health is increasingly important to understand."

Exercise can also affect the physical state of the brain, with a further study by psychologists and neuroimaging experts at the University of Edinburgh finding that individuals aged over 70 who regularly exercised presented less brain shrinkage across three years than those who did not.

Physical health

It goes without saying that being active presents enormous benefits for physical health too.

A study presented at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America revealed that individuals with Parkinson's - another condition commonly associated with ageing - benefited from exercising on a stationary bicycle, with those who pedalled faster experiencing the best results.

Scientists from Tokyo University also highlighted the importance of exercise as a preventative factor in safeguarding health. Their results suggested that to stave off sarcopenia - a disease associated with ageing - and muscle weakness later in life, people should be carrying out regular exercise when they are middle-aged.

As head of research at Age UK Professor James Goodwin concludes: "It really is never too late to benefit from exercise, so whether it's a brisk walk to the shops, gardening or competing in a fun run, it is crucial that those of us who can get active as we grow older."

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