In a study from Edith Cowan University, scientists found that something as simple as encouraging the elderly to walk down a flight of stairs could help prevent cognitive decline, a precursor to diseases such as dementia and Alzheimer’s.
Undertaking ‘eccentric’ exercise—where contracting muscles are lengthened rather than shortened—requires more brain power, which may help in preventing cognitive decline.
In a few studies, researchers tested 26 men between ages 60 and 76 following a regime of eccentric versus concentric exercises (where the muscle is activated and shortened) over 12 weeks.
Their health and fitness were monitored, showing that performing eccentric exercises was more beneficial in terms of heart rate, blood pressure, physical fitness, glucose, blood lipid profile and insulin sensitivity.
In another study, older overweight women walked either up or down a flight of stairs twice a week, with better outcomes in the descending group rather than the ascending group.
Meanwhile, retirees in Perth are taking part in a 12-week ‘Stay Sharp’ pilot program where they are monitored over time while performing various eccentric exercises.
These exercises include walking downstairs and slopes, sitting down and lying down slowly and lowering a dumbbell slowly.
The team says eccentric exercise is less metabolically challenging, easy to undertake and when repeatedly performed, results in greater increases in muscle strength and mass.
It is also important to note that eccentric exercise requires more cognitive demand, which may help prevent cognitive decline.
The team says the study also shows this type of exercise improves insulin sensitivity and blood lipid profile, lowers resting blood pressure and decreases arterial stiffness.
This means people who do these exercises have a decreased risk of diabetes and reduced cardiovascular stress.
It is well documented that diabetes is one of the causes of dementia, so if eccentric exercise can improve insulin sensitivity, it should be effective for preventing dementia.
For more information about brain health, please see recent studies about diet that may help prevent brain aging, and results showing this anti-diarrhea drug may help kill brain cancer.
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