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Physiotherapists could have a key role to play in advising patients suffering from mild cognitive impairment on the best type of physical activity they should be doing to try to prevent their symptoms from worsening.
New guidelines from the American Academy of Neurology state that exercising just twice a week could help to prevent individuals who are beginning to show signs of mild cognitive decline from developing Parkinson's disease or other forms of dementia.
Experts belonging to the Alzheimer's Association are also supporting this recommendation, believing that keeping physically fit can go some way towards keeping the mind active too, potentially preventing the onset of a more serious illness.
Mild cognitive impairment can manifest itself in many different ways, with some patients struggling to read as well as they used to or finding that they are no longer able to complete some tasks for themselves. Dementia is much more severe, but experts believe regular exercise can help to prevent it from developing.
What's more, there is evidence to suggest that exercising at least twice a week could help to improve some of the symptoms associated with mild cognitive decline.
This therefore indicates that gentle exercise or physiotherapy could have significant benefits for older people's minds as well as their bodies.
Dr Ronald C Petersen, a fellow of the American Academy of Neurology who is based at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, commented: "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.
"If you or others have noticed that you are forgetful and are having trouble with complex tasks, you should see your doctor to be evaluated and not assume it is just part of normal ageing."
Doctors can then advise on lifestyle changes to fit in more exercise or they could refer patients to physiotherapists, who will be able to ensure they are doing the right kinds of physical activity for their individual circumstances.
Written by Mathew Horton
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