Health

Regular Exercise May Slow Emergence of Alzheimer's Symptoms

A new study found that people at risk of Alzheimer's who exercised 30 minutes each day showed fewer symptoms of the disease than those who did not exercise regularly.

Sep. 18, 2019
By Teresa Lane

Recent News

Regular exer­cise appears to slow the pro­gres­sion of Alzheimer’s in middle-aged people at risk of the dis­ease, accord­ing to research pre­sented at the annual con­ven­tion of the American Psychological Association.

Ozioma Okonkwo, an assis­tant pro­fes­sor of med­i­cine at the University of Wisconsin pre­sented results from sev­eral stud­ies, includ­ing one that fol­lowed 317 at-risk patients for years.

Many stud­ies show exer­cise helps increase blood flow to the brain, bring­ing needed oxygen and nutri­ents to all areas, includ­ing those that help sup­port the for­ma­tion of new mem­o­ries and the growth of new brain cells.- Carol Hahn, a com­mit­tee member for the Alzheimer’s Research and Prevention Foundation

Although par­tic­i­pants over­all showed more phys­i­cal signs of Alzheimer’s, known as bio­mark­ers, as they aged, the effects were “sig­nif­i­cantly weaker” in older adults who engaged in the equiv­a­lent of at least 30 min­utes of mod­er­ate exer­cise five days a week.

Carol Hahn, a com­mit­tee member for the Alzheimer’s Research and Prevention Foundation, said the newest stud­ies con­firm the role of exer­cise in main­tain­ing a healthy brain.

See more: Health News

“Many stud­ies show exer­cise helps increase blood flow to the brain, bring­ing needed oxygen and nutri­ents to all areas, includ­ing those that help sup­port the for­ma­tion of new mem­o­ries and the growth of new brain cells called neu­rons,” Hahn, who is also a nurse, said.

Advertisement

“This increase in neu­rons is thought to lead to improve­ments in memory, lan­guage abil­ity, and atten­tion while delay­ing the onset of cog­ni­tive decline,” she added.

Okonkwo and his col­leagues exam­ined 317 people enrolled in the Wisconsin Registry for Alzheimer’s Prevention, an ongo­ing obser­va­tional study of more than 1,500 people with a family his­tory of demen­tia.

Registrants were cog­ni­tively healthy and between the ages of 40 and 65 years at the time of enroll­ment. Researchers logged their ini­tial bio­log­i­cal, health and lifestyle fac­tors asso­ci­ated with the dis­ease and con­ducted follow-up assess­ments every two to four years.

Advertisement

All par­tic­i­pants answered ques­tions about their phys­i­cal activ­ity and under­went neu­ropsy­cho­log­i­cal test­ing and brain scans to mea­sure sev­eral bio­mark­ers asso­ci­ated with Alzheimer’s dis­ease.

The researchers com­pared data from indi­vid­u­als younger than 60 with older adults and found a decrease in cog­ni­tive abil­i­ties and an increase in bio­mark­ers in the older group. However, the effects were much weaker in seniors who engaged in reg­u­lar, mod­er­ate activ­ity.

Advertisement

“Being phys­i­cally active should be incor­po­rated through­out our lives,” Hahn said. “Meeting the rec­om­men­da­tions in the 2018 phys­i­cal activ­ity guide­lines for Americans can lead to improved cog­ni­tion, reduced risk of demen­tia (includ­ing Alzheimer’s dis­ease) and many more long-term health ben­e­fits.”

Hahn added that she fre­quently col­lab­o­rates with clients to find some phys­i­cal activ­ity they enjoy, can rou­tinely do and will build into their lifestyles.

“You don’t have to spend a lot of money, join a gym or take an orga­nized class,” Hahn said. “Do some­thing you enjoy — go for a walk, rake the leaves or play tennis with a friend. Learning a new skill and being socially active is also good for the brain.”