And it is never too late to start, say researchers who found that physical activity helps stimulate blood circulation in areas at risk in the front of the brain.
“We understand that living with dementia poses many challenges to individuals and their families and the idea of improving their physical fitness may seem like an unachievable target,” said lead researcher Alice Hollamby, of University College London.
“However, we encourage increased physical fitness in any way – even what may seem like minor steps. “Just helping out around the house or in the garden, taking a short walk or swim, or lifting things from a seated position could play a big part in slowing the progression.”
Study co-author Dr Eddy J Davelaar, from Birkbeck, University of London, said: “We all know we should embrace a healthy lifestyle to strengthen our physical and mental wellbeing.
“However, this is not to say that when one develops dementia, all hope is lost.”
“This means it is never too late to start.”
Last night research bodies into dementia welcomed the new study, but stressed more research was still needed into the link between physical and mental fitness.
Dr Tim Shakespeare, of the Alzheimer’s Society, said: “Regular physical activity is considered a good way to reduce your risk of dementia.
“But it’s still unclear whether it can help people who already have the condition to improve their thinking skills.”
Alzheimers Research UK explain ‘what is dementia?’
Alzheimer’s Research UK also advocated staying physically fit to reduce the chance of developing dementia.
A spokesman explained: “Risk factors for cardiovascular disease – like heart disease and stroke – are also risk factors for dementia, so what is good for your heart is good for your brain.
“Leading a healthy lifestyle and taking regular exercise will help lower your risk of cardiovascular diseases, and it’s likely you could be lowering your risk of dementia too, particularly vascular dementia.”
Dr Karen Harrison-Dening, of Dementia UK, said: “Keeping active is so important for people with dementia and the people who look after them.”