In a world's first study of its kinds, researchers from the West Australian Centre for Health and Ageing (WACHA) based at the Western Australian Institute for Medical Research (WAIMR) has shown that regular physical activity can lead to a lasting improvement in memory function.
According to WACHA director Professor Leon Flicker, people above 50 years of age could pro-actively prevent memory deterioration by joining in simple and easy exercises each day.
"What our trial tells us is that older people who take up some form of aerobic exercise for as little as 20 minutes a day will be more likely to remember things like shopping lists, family birthdays and friend's names," he said.
He added: "People don't have to run a marathon to get the benefits - it's as simple as doing some forms of simple activity like walking or dancing, every day for around 20 minutes.
"The results of this trial are very encouraging and a great step forward in helping older people improve their memory and potentially delay the progression of dementia which can eventually lead to Alzheimer's disease."
"What's interesting about this study is that physical activity doesn't just have benefits for memory and preventing Alzheimer's disease, it highlights the importance of exercise to boost overall wellbeing and mental health," said Flicker.
He added: "We all know that exercise can help ward off physical conditions like heart disease and obesity and assist in overall wellbeing and fitness but this study adds another compelling reason to that list."
In the trial, 170 volunteers aged 50 years and over were divided into two groups, a control and a group who went through a 150 minutes of activity each week, ranging from walking, ballroom dancing to swimming, for a six month period.
The researchers tested participant cognition during intervals over an 18-month period - those who took part in physical activity continually out-scored the control group, which actually reported an overall decline in cognition.
The trial results will be published in the prestigious Journal of the American Medical Association.