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People who are physically active throughout their lives, particularly from age 65 on, are less likely to develop dementia. 

Exercise helps keep your brain healthy and improves your memory and thinking by: 

  • supporting blood flow and oxygen supply to your brain 
  • stimulating the growth of new brain cells 
  • protecting brain functioning in later life 
  • helping reduce your risk of falls 
  • keeping you social and engaged with other people. 

Being active is also good for your heart, sleep and mood, and reduces your risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and obesity. 

Not everyone is able to get lots of high-intensity exercise, but every bit helps.  

What you can do 

There are three kinds of exercise that can help: 

Aerobic exercise gets your heart pumping. You can start off small and build with this: try getting 30 minutes of brisk walking, dancing, jogging, bicycling or swimming. You should feel a little out of breath, but not much more. 

Resistance or weight training works your muscles, but it’s also great for your tendons, bones, metabolic rate and posture. Again, start small: squeeze a rubber ball, use an elastic resistance band from a sports shop or lift light weights. 

Flexibility and balance exercises strengthen your spine’s supporting muscles and improve your coordination and balance. You can add these to your other exercise: try stretching, tai chi, yoga and Pilates. 

Doing a mix of these exercises, for at least 30 minutes a day, is a terrific way to feel better and protect your brain health. If 30 minutes is too much at first, that’s okay: treat it as a goal and get there at your own speed. 

Getting started is often the hardest part. Try different things, and pick the ones you enjoy most to keep up. Join a group or exercise alone, whatever works for you. 

You can also build activity into your everyday life: try walking to the shops instead of driving, or getting off the bus a few stops earlier and walking the rest of the way. 

Talk to your doctor before starting an exercise program, especially if you have a health condition or disability, or if it’s been a long time since you've exercised. They can help you find the type and intensity of exercise best suited to you. 

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Last updated
15 December 2023