New physical activity guidelines have been developed for older people experiencing mild cognitive impairment to support their brain health.

The first-of-their-kind guidelines have been specifically designed for people over 60 who have noticed changes to their memory and are at increased risk of cognitive decline or dementia.

Research led by University of Melbourne Professor of Psychiatry of Old Age Nicola Lautenschlager recommends older people, in consultation with their doctor, engage in:

  • 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity or 90 minutes of vigorous activity every week
  • progressive resistance or strength training twice a week
  • activities that help improve and maintain balance

The guidelines also provide examples of different types of physical activity for seniors to engage in.

Professor Lautenschlager said older people who regularly participate in physical activity experience health benefits such as improved cognitive outcomes, physical health and physical function.

“Many older people with cognitive impairment or decline lack confidence to start or increase their physical activity,” Professor Lautenschlager said.

“They can start by talking to a health professional such as their GP to come up with an individual plan,” she said.

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.”

The guidelines, funded by Dementia Collaborative Research Centres, are available to download here. 

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