London: Take up regular aerobic exercise to slow down the advance of dementia and other signs of cognitive decline, a study suggests.
Such exercise seems to boost the size of the area of the brain (hippocampus) involved in verbal memory and learning among women whose intellectual capacity has been affected by age.
For the study, the researchers tested the impact of different types of exercise on the hippocampal volume of 86 women who said they had mild memory problems, known as mild cognitive impairment - and a common risk factor for dementia.
All the women were aged between 70 and 80 years old and were living independently at home.
Roughly equal numbers of them were assigned to either twice weekly hour long sessions of aerobic training (brisk walking); or resistance training, such as squats, and weights; or balance and muscle toning exercises, for a period of six months.
The size of their hippocampus was assessed at the start and the end of the six month period by means of an MRI scan, and their verbal memory and learning capacity was assessed before and afterward using a validated test (RAVLT).
Only 29 of the women had before and after MRI scans, but the results showed that the total volume of the hippocampus in the group who had completed the full six months of aerobic training was significantly larger than that of those who had lasted the course doing balance and muscle toning exercises.
The study appeared in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.