This column, by Allison Caban-Holt, an assistant professor with the University of Kentucky’s Sanders-Brown Center on Aging, recently appears in The Lexington Herald-Leader. It is reprinted here with permission.

The World Health Organization says that a sedentary lifestyle is one of the leading risk factors for death worldwide. We all know that being active can reduce the risk for diabetes, heart disease or even stress. But might it also help ward off dementia?

Lately, researchers have been studying the relationship between exercise and cognitive performance, bringing hopeful news about the benefits that exercise can provide to patients with degenerative brain diseases and cognitive impairment caused by Alzheimer’s disease.

The University of Kentucky Sanders-Brown Center on Aging is one of 15 centers pairing with YMCAs across the country for a study called “Exercise in Adults with Mild Memory Problems,” or EXERT. The study will explore whether physical exercises such as stretching, balance and range of motion vs. moderate-to-high intensity aerobic exercise can slow the progression of early Alzheimer’s disease memory problems (known as mild cognitive impairment) in older adults.

Participants will receive a free 18-month membership to a participating YMCA, a free personal trainer for 12 months, a personalized exercise program, medical evaluations and the opportunity to relax, meet new people and have fun.

To be part of this trial, participants must be between 65 and 89, experiencing mild memory problems, and able to exercise four times a week at the Lexington High Street YMCA for 18 months. Other criteria include general good health, no recent history of regular exercise and not currently on insulin.

For more information, contact Molly Harper, EXERT study coordinator, at, 859-323-2978 or follow the link,

You or someone you know might be able to help prove the idea that “what’s good for the heart is good for the brain.”