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'Twice-weekly exercise may improve memory, thinking'

Washington: Exercising twice a week may improve thinking ability and memory in people with mild cognitive impairment (MCI), according to a guideline by the American Academy of Neurology. Mild cognitive impairment is a medical condition that is common with ageing. While it is linked to problems with thinking ability and memory, it is not the same as dementia.

However, there is strong evidence that MCI can lead to dementia, researchers said. "It is exciting that exercise may help improve memory at this stage, as it is something most people can do and of course it has overall health benefits," said Ronald C Petersen, from the Mayo Clinic in the US and a Fellow of the American Academy of Neurology.

"Because MCI may progress to dementia, it is particularly important that MCI is diagnosed early," said Petersen, lead author of the guideline published in the journal Neurology. According to the guideline, doctors should recommend that people with MCI exercise regularly as part of an overall approach to managing their symptoms.

Although long-term studies have not been conducted, six- month studies suggest twice-weekly workouts may improve memory. The guideline states that there are no US Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved medications for the treatment of MCI. Moreover, there are no high-quality, long-term studies that suggest drugs or dietary changes can improve thinking ability or delay memory problems in people with MCI.

The guideline states that doctors may recommend cognitive training for people with MCI. There is weak evidence that cognitive training may be beneficial in improving measures of cognitive function. The authors of the new guideline developed the recommendations after reviewing all available studies on MCI.

Worldwide, more than six per cent of people in their 60s have MCI, and the condition becomes more common with age. More than 37 per cent of people aged 85 and older have it. "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 that it is just part of normal ageing," said Petersen.

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