How much and what type of physical activity do you need to do to reduce your risk of dementia? We don’t yet have enough evidence to answer this question definitively. However, the good news is that research suggests even small amounts of exercise, and simple exercise like walking, seem to be beneficial for brain health and protecting against dementia. So any physical activity you can build in to your routine will help.
Start slowly and choose activities you enjoy
Of course, the type and amount of exercise you are able to do will depend on your age, physical capability, level of fitness and any medical conditions you have. Make sure to get advice from your doctor on what is the best program of activity for you. If you’ve been inactive, start slowly and gradually build up as you get fitter.
Playing sport or joining a gym are great ways to exercise and socialise. There are also many other ways to be physically active. You could try:
- walking, running, cycling or skating
- dancing, aerobics or yoga
- swimming, rowing or surfing
- golf, bushwalking or playing in the park
Even gardening, housework and washing the car involve exercise. Choose activities that you enjoy and try to include some variety.
The National Physical Activity Guidelines
We recommend that you follow the National Physical Activity Guidelines published by the Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing. These give physical activity recommendations for 5-12 year olds, 12-18 year olds, adults and older adults 65 and over.
The Guidelines recommend adults of all ages engage in at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity on most days, preferably every day. For general fitness the most important types of activity are aerobic training, resistance or weight training and flexibility exercises.
Aerobic activity is exercise that requires you to breathe fairly heavily, causing your heart to beat faster than usual. 30 minutes of aerobic training (such as brisk walking) on most days will benefit your heart and brain health.
Resistance training, through weight training or by using your own body weight (such as stair climbing), should be included in your routine twice a week. This will improve your muscle tone, strength, metabolism and bone density.
Flexibility and balance exercises such as dancing, bending, stretching, tai chi or pilates, should also be included to strengthen the spine and supporting muscles and improve coordination.
The National Physical Activity Guidelines for Australian adults suggest:
- be active every day in as many ways as you can
- think of movement as an opportunity, not an inconvenience
- incorporate movement and activity into your normal daily routine
- be active with a friend or family member
- choose activities you enjoy
- if you can, enjoy regular vigorous exercise for extra health and fitness
Next ...... find an exercise program that is right for you