How Exercise Can Help Prevent Dementia - PT Effect

How Exercise Can Help Prevent Dementia

Weekly exercise has mental health benefits
Read Time: 2 min
Jun 15, 2021

About 6.2 million people across the United States suffer from Alzheimer’s. That’s one in every nine people who are older than 65 years old. It’s projected that by the year 2050, 12.7 million Americans will have Alzheimer’s. While Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia, it’s not the only form. Those 6.2 million Americans with Alzheimer’s make up 60-70% of those who suffer from dementia.

What Can Reduce the Risk of Dementia?

Fortunately, there are some actions people can take to help reduce their risk of developing Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia:

  • Quitting smoking
  • Eating healthy foods
  • Drinking less alcohol
  • Staying at a healthy weight
  • Maintaining a healthy blood pressure
  • Exercise
Image of a healthy smoothie bowl and avocado on toast for breakfast

You can also exercise your mind by:

  • Doing puzzles
  • Taking a class
  • Learning a language
  • Reading challenging books
  • Playing games

How Does Physical Exercise Help Reduce the Risk of Dementia?

Regular exercise is good for your health overall. Physical activity at least once a week has health benefits pertaining to the following:

  • Blood circulation
  • Heart
  • Weight
  • Mental health

Even working out for ten minutes at a time or once per week can be beneficial. For anyone who is not used to working out extensively, starting small and working up to longer workouts may be more beneficial.

What Kind of Exercise Is Best?

A woman in workout clothes doing a plank on a wooden deck next to a lake

Any exercise can have benefits to your health. But to maximize the health benefits of physical activity, the Alzheimer’s Society recommends either 150 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise each week or, if the aerobic exercise is more vigorous, then 75 minutes per week.

In addition to aerobic exercise, resistance exercises that work your muscles are also beneficial. These can be dedicated exercises like push-ups or they can be a part of another activity that you enjoy, such as digging in a garden or playing soccer.

Who Benefits Most from Exercise?

Anyone can benefit from exercise when it comes to reducing the risk of dementia. However, those who already have cognitive impairments may be at greater risk for developing dementia and will also benefit more from exercise. Researchers at South Korea’s Yonsei University College of Medicine found that people who have an existing cognitive impairment may be ten times more likely to develop dementia. The researchers found that even ten minutes of exercise per week reduced the risk of dementia for people with mild cognitive impairment by up to 18%.

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Mark Shulman

Dr. Mark Shulman

Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT), FAAOMPT, COMT, CSCS

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Fellow of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Manual Physical Therapists.


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Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT), PRPC

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