Guys, it’s time to get back on the treadmill. According to a new study, men who exercise regularly are far less likely to develop dementia later on.
In a study spanning 35 years, researchers from Cardiff University in Wales have identified five healthy behaviors that contribute to prolonged well-being and cognitive function in men. The behaviors they list are nothing we haven’t heard before: Exercise regularly, don’t smoke, keep your body weight down, eat a healthy diet and don’t drink a lot of alcohol. But their research highlights the benefits of healthy living for your brain as well as your body.
According to the study, men who followed four or five of these behaviors throughout the time the study was conducted had a 60 percent decline in dementia and 70 percent fewer instances of diabetes, heart disease and stroke, compared to men who followed none of the good advice.
“The size of reduction in the instance of disease owing to these simple, healthy steps has really amazed us and is of enormous importance in an aging population," Peter Elwood from Cardiff’s School of Medicine and the lead author of the study said in a statement. "What the research shows is that following a healthy lifestyle confers surprisingly large benefits to health – healthy behaviors have a far more beneficial effect than any medical treatment or preventative procedure.”
He added: "Sadly, the evidence from this study shows that very few people follow a fully healthy lifestyle.”
Researchers followed the health habits of more than 2,200 men between the ages of 45 and 59 over 35 years. Of course, hearing that exercise and a healthy diet are good for us isn’t new news. But sometimes repetition is the only way to break old habits and learn good behavior.
"We have known for some time that what is good for your heart is also good for your head," Doug Brown, director of research and development at the Alzheimer's Society, said in a statement. "This study provides more evidence to show that healthy living could significantly reduce the chances of developing dementia."
Dementia is an overall term for several degenerative diseases of the brain brought on by age, although sometimes dementia can develop in people younger than 65. Alzheimer’s is the most common type of dementia and accounts for nearly 80 percent of cases. Memory loss, Huntington’s disease and vascular dementia, which occurs after a stroke, are other forms of dementia.
Symptoms of dementia can vary, but often include impaired communication and language, memory loss, impaired reasoning and judgment and inattention. According to the study, we can decrease our chances of developing dementia by keeping active, even in little ways.
"We should all live a more active lifestyle,” Elwood told the BBC. “If I park my car a mile from work - that makes me likely to do more than the half an hour a day. Any exercise has some benefit and the more, the better."