Neurologists group: If you’ve got some early cognitive deficits, give exercise a try

There are only about 888 different ways in which exercise is supposed to help older adults, and the American Academy of Neurology is endorsing an 889th.

People with mild cognitive impairment — a stage at which individuals have memory problems but are still capable of independent functioning — ought to exercise at least twice a week because it could help their thinking ability, according to a recommendation newly published in the medical journal Neurology.

The academy acknowledged that no long-term studies have yet been conducted providing solid proof of exercise benefits for those with MCI, but it said the research thus far offers hope for that being the case. Considering there are no drugs deemed useful for MCI, whose symptoms are often an early sign of Alzheimer’s or other dementia, the academy said exercise is worth trying.

“It’s exciting that exercise may help improve memory at this stage, as it’s something most people can do, and of course it has overall health benefits,” said Dr. Ronald Petersen, a Mayo Clinic neurologist and Alzheimer’s researcher who authored the Neurology article.

The academy reports that an estimated 6 percent of people in their 60s have MCI, with the likelihood of it increasing with age to more than one of three people age 85 and older. The condition increases an individual’s likelihood of developing dementia but does not make it inevitable.

The academy guideline also noted that doctors may suggest cognitive training to patients with MCI because of potential benefits, although it noted there has been weaker evidence for that thus far than for exercise.

Gary Rotstein: grotstein@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1255.