Drop and Give Yourself 20

Drop and Give Yourself 20

By Anne Miller

Older woman stretching in yoga class.
SourceJon Feingersh/Getty


A few simple moves could save your skull — and everything inside. 

By Anne Miller

If it seems like Alzheimer’s is everywhere these days, that’s because it is. Deaths from the disease have risen some 68 percent in the past decade, with more than 500,000 deaths a year. It’s the sixth biggest killer in the U.S, according to the Alzheimer’s Association, which says an estimated 5.2 million people suffer from the debilitating, degenerative disease. 

Part of the reason for Alzheimer’s rise is attributed to our longer life span: In past years — nay, decades — people didn’t live as long as they tend to now, so diseases related to aging didn’t affect as many of us. There are also genetic links, and there’s still a lot of mystery as to why some people fall prey and others don’t.

It’s no longer simply your waistline at stake — it’s also your old-age brain.

People who have Alzheimer’s tend to die from complications of the disease — infections due to bed sores because they can’t move. Blood clots. A weakened immune system. Thousands more deaths can be attributed to Alzheimer’s than previously thought, because many doctors don’t list the ultimately fatal complications as part of the disease, according to a study published in March

But a new study out of the University of Eastern Finland found there’s one way to help ward off the onset of mind-altering problems like dementia in old age: a dose of exercise 2 times a week. 

That’s all it took for midlife patients to lower their risk of developing the disease. That’s it. Just twice a week.

And we know: You’ve heard the line before. But it’s no longer simply your waistline at stake — it’s also your old-age brain.

Already overweight adults reaped the largest brain-saving benefits, regardless of any other factors (genetics, race, income, you name it). Turns out they were significantly less likely to develop dementia or Alzheimer’s after about age 78.8 than those who didn’t exercise. 

But if you aren’t 25 anymore, don’t panic that you’ve lost your chance. Don’t let those spry kids who can still sport spandex without embarrassment keep you from the gym, nor those weekend marathoners lapping you at the park stop you from lacing up your shoes. Even if it’s been 20 years since you’ve hopped on a bike, or you’ve long given up dieting, give a new workout a whirl. Your brain will thank you.