Neuroscientist reveals the shocking link between exercise and dementia (2024)

A neuroscientist has revealed the best morning routine for optimal brain function and explained the shocking link between lack of exercise and dementia.

Dr Wendy Suzuki, who is a Professor of Neural Science and Psychology at New York University, appeared on Dragons' Den star Steven Bartlett's The Diary of a CEO podcast, to discuss brain health.

The bestselling author of books such as, Good Anxiety and Healthy Brain, Happy Life revealed studies have shown exercise can'protect your brain from aging'.

She explained: 'Exercise can improve your mood, it makes your memory better and it improves the function of your prefrontal cortex and I thought ''wow that is amazing''.

The professor went on to explain how her own family situation increased her interest in how exercise impacts the brain, after her father's cognition began to decline.

Dr Wendy Suzuki, who is a Professor of Neural Science and Psychology at New York University,revealed the best morning routine for optimal brain function

She recalled: 'I got a call from my mom to say my father wasn't feeling well, he had gotten lost driving home from the coffee shop he had drove to every day for the last 20 years and the hippocampus is particularly important for spatial memory.'

Hippocampus isa complex brain structure embedded deep into temporal lobe. It plays a major role in learning and memory.

The doctor added: 'As an expert in thehippocampus I knew that that was a telltale sign of dementia and maybe Alzheimer's dementia.'

'As I talked to my father, and of course we went and got him a neurology appointment, I saw that everything that seemed to be improving in me, that is memory, focus, very very suddenly diminished in him.

'The loss of his cognitive functions that turned out to be Alzheimer's dementia, made me think that the power of physical activity needed to be explored more deeply.

'That made me actually switch my research focus from memory function to understanding the effects of physical activity on the brain.'

DrWendy went onto explain that brains can change shape and the frontal cortex can become stronger through mental stimulation and exercise.

She revealed professorMarian Diamond discovered brain plasticity in the late 1960s by experimenting with rats, putting some of the rodents in a box with no stimulation and others in a box with toys and an exercise wheel.

Dr Wendy explained: 'She found that the the brains of those rats raised in the Disney World of rat cages the outer covering of the brain was actually thicker.'

Dr Wendy appeared on Dragons' Den star Steven Bartlett 's (pictured) The Diary of a CEO podcast, to discuss brain health

'Later studies showed that you get almost identical effects by just giving rats a running wheel physical activity is doing all of that which has the potential to change therodent brain and now in the human brain.'

The professor added that although they don't know the cause of Alzheimer's and Dementia there are ways for people to 'protect their brain from aging'.

She said: 'My number one most powerful tool that you can do to protect your brain from aging and from neurodegenerative diseases is start walking. Why do I start with that? Because everybody can walk, you don't need to buy any new fitness outfits just go out and walk more.

'From that study that I mentioned, in the 65 year olds there is a 30 percent reduction inthe probability of getting Alzheimer's with just walking.'

Elsewhere the neuroscientist recommended her own morning routine for optimal brain function...

1. 45 minute meditation

She said: 'Every morning I like to wake up and I start with about a 45 minute tea meditation,which is ameditation over the brewing and drinking of tea and this is after many years of yo-yo meditating.

'I knew meditation was good but I just couldn't really get into it and I was introduced to this form of meditation by a monk who invited me to tea, and we just did this silent meditation outside in a beautiful location.

'The ritualof brewing,drinking, steeping, re starting over again, kind of kept me in the flow.'

2. 30 minute workout

She said: 'I try and do cardio strength, sometimes I do yoga, sometimes I just do mobility.'

3. Hot and cold contrast shower

She said: 'A hot cold contrast shower is also something very helpful for my brain health because it really gives that adrenaline boost that just energizes me and I love that feeling at the beginning of the day.'

After her morning routine she has her breakfast and goes to work with a clearer mind.


Dementia is an umbrella term used to describe a range of neurological disorders


Dementia is an umbrella term used to describe a range of progressive neurological disorders (those affecting the brain) which impact memory, thinking and behaviour.

There are many types of dementia, of which Alzheimer’s disease is the most common.

Some people may have a combination of different types of dementia.

Regardless of which type is diagnosed, each person will experience dementia in their own unique way.

Dementia is a global concern but it is most often seen in wealthier countries, where people are likely to live into very old age.


The Alzheimer's Society reports there are more than 900,000 people living with dementia in the UK today. This is projected to rise to 1.6 million by 2040.

Alzheimer's disease is the most common type of dementia, affecting between 50 and 75 per cent of those diagnosed.

In the US, it's estimated there are 5.5 million Alzheimer's sufferers. A similar percentage rise is expected in the coming years.

As a person’s age increases, so does the risk of them developing dementia.

Rates of diagnosis are improving but many people with dementia are thought to still be undiagnosed.


Currently there is no cure for dementia.

But new drugs can slow down its progression and the earlier it is spotted, the more effective treatments can be.

Source: Alzheimer’s Society

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Neuroscientist reveals the shocking link between exercise and dementia (2024)


What is the best exercise to prevent dementia? ›

Current research suggests that sustained, moderate intensity aerobic exercise — such as brisk walking or swimming — offers the most benefit for the brain.

How does exercise affect dementia? ›

Physical activity may improve some aspects of memory. For example, it can help you to have clearer memories of certain events, whether or not you have dementia. Alongside other factors such as diet, physical activity may also help to lower the risk of developing the condition at all.

Is walking good for dementia? ›

There is currently no cure for dementia, but there is mounting evidence that walking not only boosts your overall health but can also reduce your risk of dementia by half, according to a new study.

Does exercise slow Alzheimer's? ›

Regular exercise can reduce the risk of developing dementia by about 28%. For Alzheimer's disease specifically, the risk was reduced by 45%. These numbers come from an analysis that combined results of 16 studies into exercise and dementia.

What is the number one food that fights dementia? ›

There's no single or “best” food to fight dementia. Eating patterns that include several anti-inflammatory foods may help to prevent or slow dementia. These include leafy greens, nuts, berries, whole grains, beans, and olive oil.

What three foods help memory loss? ›

Nuts, seeds and legumes contain antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids, as well as other nutrients such as vitamin E, B vitamins, choline, magnesium and zinc. All of these are shown to promote brain health and reduce age-related cognitive decline.

How to slow dementia? ›

What Can You Do?
  1. Control high blood pressure. ...
  2. Manage blood sugar. ...
  3. Maintain a healthy weight. ...
  4. Eat a healthy diet. ...
  5. Keep physically active. ...
  6. Stay mentally active. ...
  7. Stay connected with family and friends. ...
  8. Treat hearing problems.
Apr 1, 2024

How to train your brain to prevent dementia? ›

Examples of brain-challenging games can include chess, tabletop games, video games, word and number puzzles, jigsaws, crosswords, sudoku and memory games. For games on your computer, your tablet or your phone, find games where you can play and interact with other people.

What are three things to never do with your loved one with dementia? ›

Here are some Don'ts:
  • Don't reason.
  • Don't argue.
  • Don't confront.
  • Don't remind them they forget.
  • Don't question recent memory.
  • Don't take it personally.

What speeds up dementia decline? ›

other long-term health problems – dementia tends to progress more quickly if the person is living with other conditions, such as heart disease, diabetes or high blood pressure, particularly if these are not well-managed.

Why do dementia patients refuse to walk? ›

The causes of mobility decline in dementia are multifactorial, including neurodegenerative changes, cerebrovascular disease, and age-related musculoskeletal or sensory changes. Cognitive changes and the presence of behavioral symptoms associated with dementia can also contribute to mobility deficits in this population.

What does a dementia walk look like? ›

When a person has Lewy body dementia, their steps are more irregular and this is associated with increased falls risk. Their walking is more asymmetric in step time and stride length, meaning their left and right footsteps look different to each other.

What is the anti dementia diet? ›

Similar to the Mediterranean diet, the MIND diet features vegetables, especially green leafy vegetables; berries over other fruit; whole grains; beans; nuts; one or more weekly servings of fish; and olive oil. It also limits servings of red meat, sweets, cheese, butter/margarine, and fast/fried food.

What is the best activity to prevent dementia? ›

6 exercises to help reduce the risk of dementia
  • Walking or power walking.
  • Riding a bicycle or exercise bike.
  • Swimming.
  • Running.
  • Cardio machines like the elliptical.
  • Circuit training.
Sep 8, 2022

What is the best exercise for Alzheimer's? ›

Moderate physical activities for people with dementia
  • Walking. Walking can help you to build stamina and increase your overall fitness, as well as helping you if you want to lose weight. ...
  • Gardening. Gardening may help to strengthen your muscles and improve your breathing. ...
  • Going to the gym. ...
  • Swimming. ...
  • Golf. ...
  • Table tennis. ...
  • Tennis.

What is the number one thing to prevent dementia? ›

Doing regular physical activity is one of the best ways to reduce your risk of dementia. It's good for your heart, circulation, weight and mental wellbeing. There are two main types of physical activity – aerobic activity and strength-building activity.

How many minutes to walk to prevent dementia? ›

People who took between 3,800 and 9,800 steps, but who averaged 40 or more steps per minute and took about 112 steps during the 30 most active minutes of the day, had an even lower dementia risk.

How can you reduce your chances of getting dementia? ›

What Can You Do?
  1. Control high blood pressure. ...
  2. Manage blood sugar. ...
  3. Maintain a healthy weight. ...
  4. Eat a healthy diet. ...
  5. Keep physically active. ...
  6. Stay mentally active. ...
  7. Stay connected with family and friends. ...
  8. Treat hearing problems.
Apr 1, 2024

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