Can exercise stop you getting dementia and could your race influence the type of dementia you might develop? Two new studies from the US reveal fascinating insights into the latest dementia research

Getting fit won’t only improve your physical health, it could also bring long-lasting benefits to your brain, according to a six month study of people aged over 65.

The US research suggests that even a modest amount of exercise could help to improve brain function, though the people who exercised the most (around 225 minutes per week) saw the most benefits particularly in visual-spatial processing memory. All participants – even those who only exercised for 75 minutes per week – found their ability to focus and pay attention increased.

‘The more exercise you did, the more benefit to the brain,’ explained Professor Jeffrey Burns who led the study at the University of Kansas Medical Centre.

Interestingly, it wasn’t simply the amount of exercise but the quality of it that mattered most. ‘The results suggest that it’s not enough to just exercise more, you have to do it in a way that bumps up your overall fitness level,’ adds research associate Professor Eric Vidoni.

The relationship between exercise and brain health is a fascinating area of research which will continue to be explored by scientists in the search for ways to prevent or delay Alzheimer’s and other dementias.

Dementia and ethnicity

Could the colour of your skin determine the type of dementia you may develop? This was the premise of another US research study which also revealed its findings this week.

The study by scientists at Rush University Medical Centre in Chicago found differences in the brain autopsies of black and white patients, suggesting that black people were more likely to develop mixed dementia, while white patients were more likely to develop Alzheimer’s.

Understanding the differences is, say researchers, another important step in the search for a cure or treatment for dementia.