A recent review about the relationship between exercise and mental health in the elderly discussed the results of clinical research and biological explanations for the effects of exercise on mental health. Exercise is studied in the elderly in depression, Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease.
Dr. Shock has discussed the topic of exercise and depression before on his blog. The conclusion was that exercise is more effective than no treatment and that for mild to moderate depression it is efficacious and for severe depression it should be added to other treatments in the treatment program. In this more recent review on exercise and mental health the focus is on the elderly. Data on elderly patients are scarcer. Nevertheless investigations have shown that aerobic exercise at an intensity consistent with public health recommendations can be regarded as an effective treatment of mild and moderate depression. There is some evidence for a possible dose-response effect of exercise on depression. Treatment not prevention? Indeed, this topic has not yet been extensively studied in the elderly yet.
What does that mean: aerobic exercise at an intensity consistent with public health recommendations?
Basic recommendations from the The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) and the American Heart Association (AHA).
- Do moderately intense aerobic exercise 30 minutes a day, five days a week
- Or Do vigorously intense aerobic exercise 20 minutes a day, 3 days a week
- And Do eight to 10 strength-training exercises, 10-15 repetitions of each exercise twice to three times per week
- And If you are at risk of falling, perform balance exercises
- And Have a physical activity plan.
What is a physical activity plan?
In short consult your GP before starting to exercise.
Older adults or adults with chronic conditions should develop an activity plan with a health professional to manage risks and take therapeutic needs into account. This will maximize the benefits of physical activity and ensure your safety.
Physical Exercise and Alzheimer’s Disease
- Epidemiological studies have associated exercise with reduced risk of Alzheimer’s disease
- Exercise as treatment for dementia showed efficacy for mood status, psychosocial functioning, physical health and caregiver distress
- Daily 30 minutes of exercise diminishes the number of hospitalization needed, decreased depressive symptoms, increased quality of life in patients with Alzheimer’s disease
- In comparison with a sedentary group, the group with a year of exercise intervention improved in quality of life
Physical Exercise and Parkinson’s Disease
Also in Parkinson’s Disease epidemiological studies have shown that exercise can protect against the disease. The disease is associated with tremor, rigidity, and hypokinesia which can result in falls and tiredness.The main advantage of exercise in PD is improvement of functional capabilities due to strength and balance training. This improves motor skills, improves their quality of life and reduces the number of falls.
Although somewhat limited, evidence suggests that exercise training is beneficial to patients with PD, especially in functional capacity and ADLs improvement
The protective effect of exercise can be explained by effects on the brain as can be read in the Neuroscience of Exercise on Dr. Shock’s blog.
Deslandes, A., Moraes, H., Ferreira, C., Veiga, H., Silveira, H., Mouta, R., Pompeu, F., Coutinho, E., & Laks, J. (2009). Exercise and Mental Health: Many Reasons to Move Neuropsychobiology, 59 (4), 191-198 DOI: 10.1159/000223730