A NEW set of guidelines sets out how much and what type of physical activity should be undertaken by Australians aged 60 and over, who have noticed changes in their memory and cognitive abilities, to improve brain health.
Research led by the University of Melbourne shows older people should, in consultation with their doctor, engage in:
- 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity or 90 minutes of vigorous activity every week
- Progressive resistance training twice a week
- Activities that help improve and maintain balance
University of Melbourne Professor of Psychiatry of Old Age Nicola Lautenschlager said older people who regularly participate in physical activity experience health benefits such as improved cognitive outcomes, physical health and physical function.
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"Many older people with cognitive impairment or decline lack confidence to start or increase their physical activity," Professor Lautenschlager said.
"Start by talking to a health professional like your GP to come up with an individual plan.
"You could start with a very small amount of activity then increase it gradually. Also, doing physical activity with someone else and choosing something fun can help you stay active and makes getting started less daunting."
Professor Lautenschlager said research into how physical activity affects brain health was relatively young and many details about the underlying mechanisms remain unknown.
"Current evidence suggests that physical activity can protect the brain through indirect effects, such as by lowering the blood pressure and increasing heart health or through direct effects, such as stimulating activities of nerve cells via release of specific chemicals directly in the brain.
"So many countries already had guidelines for healthy people of all ages, but these Australian guidelines are the first of their kind as they are specifically for people who have noticed changes to their memory and cognition with aging and are therefore at increased risk to develop cognitive decline or dementia in the future," Professor Lautenschlager said.
Moderate Aerobic physical activities are when you start to sweat and need to breathe a bit harder, such as brisk walking or bicycling, whereas vigorous aerobic activities are when it would be hard to hold a conversation, such as running or aerobics.
Progressive resistance training uses weights or body weight) to cause muscles to contract. This, in turn, builds strength of skeletal muscles, tendons, ligaments and bones. Balance exercises help to reduce the risk of falls, and include walking heel to toe and rocking onto heels and toes.