Can Exercise Prevent Memory Loss?

seniors in a yoga class

All any aging adult wants is to be able to live their retirement years at their healthiest and happiest. To achieve this, prioritizing physical and cognitive health is key.

It’s common for older adults to experience forgetfulness, and many even develop more extreme memory loss – referred to medically as “dementia.” While it’s certainly jarring for the senior themself and for family members to witness any mild to moderate cognitive decline, there are ways to reduce the risk of developing memory loss and even slow the process.

One solution is through regular exercise. First, you’ll learn what causes dementia and the basic health-related terms associated with this disease. Then, you’ll discover how to prevent memory loss with exercise and the benefits of a memory care community.

At Wyndemere, our goal is to provide exceptional dementia care and peace to those living with dementia and their loved ones. We also aim to educate our audience about the stigmas surrounding this disease and how a senior living community can be a remarkable resource for support.

What causes memory loss?

To seek out any type of treatment or holistic remedy to potentially prevent memory loss, you must first understand what exactly it is and what causes it.

The medical term for general memory loss is “dementia.” Mayo Clinic defines it as “a group of thinking and social symptoms that interferes with daily functioning. Not a specific disease, dementia is a group of conditions characterized by impairment of at least two brain functions, such as memory loss and judgment. Symptoms include forgetfulness, limited social skills, and thinking abilities so impaired that they interfere with daily functioning. Medications and therapies may help manage symptoms.”

You may also hear the term “Alzheimer’s” being used to refer to any type of cognitive impairment. Not all memory loss is due to Alzheimer’s disease. However, Alzheimer’s is the most common cause and type of dementia. 

Mayo Clinic shares, “Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive neurologic disorder that causes the brain to shrink (atrophy) and brain cells to die. It is a continuous decline in thinking, behavioral and social skills that affects a person’s ability to function independently.”

“Approximately 5.8 million people in the United States aged 65 and older live with Alzheimer’s disease. Of those, 80% are 75 years old and older. Out of the approximately 50 million people worldwide with dementia, between 60% and 70% are estimated to have Alzheimer’s disease” (Mayo Clinic).

So what exactly causes declined cognitive function?

According to the National Institute on Aging, “Memory and other thinking problems have many possible causes, including depression, an infection, or medication side effects. Sometimes, the problem can be treated, and cognition improves. Other times, the problem is a brain disorder, such as Alzheimer’s disease, which cannot be reversed.”

Other potential causes for memory loss are genetics, stress, and isolation.

How to prevent memory loss with exercise

From what you now know, it’s apparent that dementia is something that should be taken seriously. One way to take action to slow the process or even potentially prevent its onset is through regular exercise.

In fact, it’s a win-win. Exercise not only promotes healthier brain function, but it improves physical health as well. So while you’re getting your blood flowing and building strength, you’re also working out your brain.

Dr. Scott McGinnis, an instructor in neurology at Harvard Medical School, shares that “Exercise boosts your memory and thinking skills both directly and indirectly. It acts directly on the body by stimulating physiological changes such as reductions in insulin resistance and inflammation, along with encouraging production of growth factors – chemicals that affect the growth of new blood vessels in the brain, and even the abundance, survival, and overall health of new brain cells.”

Experts at Mayo Clinic add, “It also appears that regular physical activity benefits the brain. Studies show that people who are physically active are less likely to experience a decline in their mental function and have a lowered risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. Physical activity is one of the known modifiable risk factors for dementia. Plus, regular exercise helps combat other Alzheimer’s disease risk factors, such as depression and obesity.”

By exercising anywhere from 30 to 60 minutes a few days per week, you or your loved one can:

  • Keep thinking, reasoning and learning skills sharp for healthy individuals
  • Improve memory, reasoning, judgment and thinking skills (cognitive function) for people with mild Alzheimer’s disease or mild cognitive impairment
  • Delay the start of Alzheimer’s for people at risk of developing the disease or slow the progress of the disease
  • Increase the size of the part of the brain that’s associated with memory formation (hippocampus)

*Information provided by Mayo Clinic.

The benefits of memory care

There is still a risk of developing dementia, even while making healthy lifestyle choices, particularly if genetic in nature. If your loved one lives alone and can no longer manage daily tasks or a simple exercise routine at home, moving them to a memory care community like Wyndemere will help tremendously.

At Wyndemere, seniors living with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia reside in and receive care in our Westbridge neighborhood. This dedicated memory care community offers a personalized care plan through Heartfelt Connections, a comprehensive program based on the latest in memory care research and best practices, which allows residents to get moving and engage their minds.

Our community centers around holistic wellness and includes services and amenities that make each day brighter, including:

  • Assistance with activities of daily living (ADLs), like bathing, grooming, eating and toileting
  • Medication management
  • 24/7 security and nursing staff
  • Social and physical activities specially designed for those living with memory loss
  • Access to a full continuum of care
  • A tranquil, homelike setting with a secure outdoor courtyard
  • Spa treatments

Is memory care at Wyndemere right for your loved one? Learn more here.

Make every moment count at Wyndemere.
Our thoughtfully designed memory care program in Wheaton, Illinois allows those with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia to live with dignity and a renewed sense of purpose. Discover a personalized approach to care as you and your loved ones navigate the memory loss journey. Fill out our form to learn more about memory care services and to get in touch with a member of our specially trained team.