Under the Hood

Want To Avoid Alzheimer's Disease? Do Regular Aerobic Exercise, Study Says

Being physically active offers a number of health benefits, from increasing your energy, helping avoid diseases to improving brain function. The scientific community continues to uncover more positive effects of exercise and latest findings added lower Alzheimer's risk to the list. 

A new study, published in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease, found that regular aerobic exercise could help prevent the development of the disease in older adults. To those already diagnosed with Alzheimer's, the exercise also helped slow down their cognitive decline, CNN reported Tuesday

The benefits occurred when people spent half an hour of aerobic exercise four to five times a week. The study is the first to look at the effects of exercise on brain structure, function and amyloid burden in older adults with memory problems, the researchers said. 

The study involved 70 adults aged 55 and older who were diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment. Researchers divided the participants into groups that followed a routine for 12 months of either aerobic exercise or a combination of stretching and toning. 

Both routines helped prevent or slowed cognitive decline in each group. But the people who did aerobic exercise had slower degeneration and lower hippocampal shrinkage, the area in the brain for memory.

However, aerobic exercise and stretching did not help avoid amyloid clumps, which contribute to Alzheimer's disease. But aerobic exercise still helped improve memory of the participants.

"The brains of participants with amyloid responded more to the aerobic exercise than the others," Rong Zhang, lead study author and a neurology professor at UT Southwestern Medical Center, said. 

The key finding in the study is that regular exercise helped reduce shrinkage of the memory center in the brain, especially in people experiencing early signs of Alzheimer's disease, according to Richard Isaacson, a neurologist and founder of the Alzheimer's Prevention Clinic at Weill Cornell Medicine.

"Most physicians believe in the power of exercise to support overall brain health, but fewer believe that exercise can specifically impact people with early Alzheimer's," Isaacson said. "This study brings us one step closer toward teasing out the effects in people with biomarker defined Alzheimer's."

Larger studies are needed to better understand how regular aerobic exercise helps prevent or delay the effects of Alzheimer's disease. 

Exercise Women gathered for a morning aerobic exercise. Pixabay

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