Physical Exercise is the Most Effective Form of Treatment for Cognitive Decline and Alzheimer’s Disease

According to the International Association of Gerontology and Geriatrics consensus conference paper, a patient is entitled to early detection of cognitive impairment.  The paper also encourages the implementation of medical and lifestyle interventions as an effective way to delay or improve cognitive decline.  Screening promotes prevention or treatment.  Physical activity is especially important in combating the progression of cognitive impairment.

The population-attributable risk for Western countries is an estimated 20%, with physical inactivity as the primary modifiable risk factor accounting for about two-thirds of the population-attributable risk for the most effective prevention of Alzheimer’s disease.  In regards to mild cognitive impairment, substantial evidence has shown that physical exercise interventions have significant benefits on cognition in Alzheimer’s disease patients and mild cognitive impairment.  Research has also shown that drug treatment (such as cholinesterase inhibitors, memantine, and Ginko biloba), on the other hand, only has a small effect in Alzheimer’s disease and no effect in mild cognitive impairment. Physical exercise has been shown to be the most powerful intervention in reducing cognitive decline in at-risk older adults in many studies.

Therefore, there is increasing and consistent evidence that by encouraging adults to engage in regular physical activity, the rate of cognitive degeneration and dementia can be diminished.  It has long been time for society to view and support physical activity as an integral part of daily activities, beneficial to occupational and familial responsibilities, and as a crucial factor in the maintenance of health and decreasing health care expenses in a predominantly older adult society.
The time to start promoting physical exercise for cognitive health is now.  Physical activity not only delays the onset of cognitive decline in older ages, it also prevents vascular disorders in younger adulthood.  In very early ages, such as in childhood, physical activity has been shown to improve mental disorders like depression and anxiety.  Given that so many people are affected by a variety of disorders that increase the risk of developing cognitive decline in older ages, the promotion of physical activity can have a major impact on improving health outcomes, quality of life, and healthcare costs as a whole.