I just read an article in Medical News Today entitled “Exercising Daily Lowers Alzheimer’s Risk, Even If You Start Later In Life.” The leading author, Dr. Aron S. Buchman, from the Rush University Medical Center had this study published in the April 18th issue of Neurology. They tracked 716 elders with an average age of 82 years old for approximately 3.5 years after they had worn an actigraph (records all exercise and non-exercise physical activity) on their non-dominent wrist for 10 days. They also measured memory and thinking abilities annually in addition to the subjects’ self-reporting. What they found was those elders in the bottom 10% of daily physical activity were at more than 2.3 times greater risk of developing Alzheimer’s compared to those in the top 10%. This study showed that daily activities such as cooking, cleaning, or even moving a wheelchair helped provide some protection against developing AD, but the more intense activities these elders performed on a daily basis, the greater the protection against AD. (
I know, I know–I don’t like to “exercise” either! Many elders suffer from chronic arthritis or other debilitating conditions which makes it difficult and painful to move, but study after study has shown that the more you move, the longer you’ll be able to move. You now have another reason to get moving. You might consider asking your doctor for a referral for a limited number of physical therapy visits in which you would then learn the safest and most effective ways to exercise. Simple armchair exercises are extremely beneficial and you can also exercise your legs while sitting. Another benefit not mentioned in this article, would be the reduced risk of falling when an elder is more active, and therefore, stronger. Even if an elder who is very active and strong does fall, their chance of suffering a fracture is reduced simply because their bones are stronger from the daily movements.
If you are an elder who would like to become more active to protect your brain, as well as your bones, please speak with your doctor about safe ways you can increase your activity level. There are many, many simple ways to do so without joining a formal exercise group. Walking is one of the best ways, and if you are already walking, consider using a walking stick in each hand to provide a great workout to your upper body at the same time. Start slow and only go shorter distances, but you’ll be surprised to see just how quickly you can increase your distance.
Get those soup cans out of the cupboard and hoist them a few times upward, then outward. You can graduate to bigger cans once that becomes easy for you. Standing behind a chair and raising your leg out to the side multiple times while holding the back of the chair greatly helps improve your balance as well as leg strength. If you have stairs in your home, think about going up and down a few times a day when you don’t need to–be sure to hold onto the railing though!
Every single thing you do that increases the amount of blood flow and oxygen to your brain, will help protect your brain from getting a dementia such as Alzheimer’s.
Maybe it would help get you moving if you think about “exercise” in a different way. Tell yourself “now I’ll give my brain the oxygen vitamin by lifting these cans ten times.” If you do that every day, it then becomes a habit and you begin to do it without thinking of it as “exercise.”
What this article tells me is that it’s never too late to get moving, and when you do, you’re helping to protect the only brain you have. You’re the only one who can help your brain, so please consider the simple ways you can get moving. Good luck!

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