Smart massage therapists know exercise must be part of a self-care regimen, for the physical strength, stamina and flexibility it provides. A new literature review indicates aerobic exercise may also reduce the risk of dementia.

The study by Mayo Clinic researchers indicates any exercise that gets the heart pumping may reduce the risk of dementia and slow the condition’s progression once it starts. The researchers examined the role of aerobic exercise in preserving cognitive abilities, by reviewing more than 1,600 papers, and concluded that it should not be overlooked as an important therapy against dementia.

The researchers broadly defined exercise as enough aerobic physical activity to raise the heart rate and increase the body’s need for oxygen. Examples include walking, gym workouts and activities at home, such as shoveling snow or raking leaves.

“We concluded that you can make a very compelling argument for exercise as a disease-modifying strategy to prevent dementia and mild cognitive impairment, and for favorably modifying these processes once they have developed,” said J. Eric Ahlskog, M.D., Ph.D., a neurologist at the Mayo Clinic

The study was published this month in Mayo Clinic Proceedings.

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