Mild cognitive impairment (MCI), which is characterized by memory problems and a decline in thinking ability, affects more than a quarter of people age 80 and over. We all forget things, like where we left our keys, but individuals with MCI are more likely to forget things that other people their age. Since MCI patients are at a high risk for dementia, there is a push to find methods to slow or halt MCI.
Research published recently in the journal Neurology found little evidence that drugs were effective, however, researchers did discover that exercise was effective. Resistance training twice a week is also effective in helping organize thoughts. Although all types of exercise will improve memory, research shows resistance training as the most effective.
Simple weight training exercises twice a week with light weights or soup cans are a good start. Pushing and pulling exercises build strength, although experts advise not to work the same muscles the next day. Resistance bands also provide the same benefit. Aerobic exercise is also important; walking and hiking do not require any special equipment. Previous studies suggest using a treadmill or stationary bicycle for moderate aerobic exercise thrice weekly for at least 45 minutes improved memory. An exercise program for seniors is more palatable in the company of others. A gym membership is encouraged, with exercises gradually increased as tolerated.
The American Academy of Neurology updated its recommendations to doctors, saying that twice weekly exercise can improve memory. While there are numerous supplements that claim to aid brain health and dietary suggestions, such as cutting out sugar and many carbs, the American Academy of Neurology says that exercise is the only tactic that is proven to aid memory in clinical studies. While doctors often suggest cognitive training, although there is no proof that it is effective either.