Fit Body, Fit Mind

More and more, studies are showing that exercise does wonderful things not only for physical health but for mental health as well. Here are the latest findings:

Just One Walk Lifts Mood

Studying 40 men and women recently diagnosed with depression, researchers at the University of Texas found that a single 30-minute walk can give a temporary lift in energy and emotional well-being.*

Previous studies, lead author Dr. John Bartholomew and co-authors pointed out, have found that regular exercise over a period of several weeks can serve as therapy for depression – and is sometimes as effective as anti-depressant medications.

The good news about this latest research is that patients need not wait to start getting some benefit. Each day, just getting up and getting moving for a short walk may give that day “a significant increase in positive well-being and vigor,” concluded the authors, which can help patients manage the daily symptoms of depression.

Preventing Dementia, Alzheimer’s

Older adults who engaged in exercise at least 15 minutes three times a week were less likely to develop dementia and Alzheimers over a 6-year period compared to their sedentary peers, according to newly published research. **

“A modest amount of exercise reduced a person’s risk of dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease, by about 40%,” stated lead author Dr. Eric B. Larson, from Group Health Cooperative in Seattle.

Dr. Larson and colleagues followed 1,740 men and women, age 65 and older, for a period of six years, evaluating them every two years for signs of dementia. All types of physical activity, including walking, hiking, bicycling, aerobic dance classes, calisthenics, swimming, water aerobics, weight training, and stretching, helped ward off dementia.

Interestingly, pointed out the authors, all exercisers reduced their risk of dementia, even those who were in poor physical shape at the beginning of the study but soon after adopted a regular exercise routine.

“It says to me: ‘Use it even after you start to lose it, and you will regain it,” sums up Dr. Larson.

The authors would not go so far as to say that exercise prevents dementia, “but it might be associated with a delay in onset.” Certainly, that’s no small benefit.

* Med & Sci in Sports & Exercise, 2006; 37 (12): 2032.

** Ann Int Med, 2006; 144: 73.

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