Exercise May Cut Alzheimer’s Risk
Research published in the July 15 edition of the Medical Journal of Neurology, shows that people with Alzheimer's who are less fit have four times more signs of brain shrinkage than those who are fit.
The research team lead by Jeffrey M. Burns, MD, of the University of Kansas School of Medicine in Kansas City and members of the American Academy of Neurology, looked at 121 people over the age of sixty years of age, about half of who had early Alzheimer's disease. The study participants underwent fitness tests using a treadmill and had brain scans to measure white and gray matter, as well as total brain volume.
What implications does this study have for people trying to reduce Alzheimer's risk or improve symptoms? Dr Burns says that his findings are interesting because the study is one of the first to look at the effect of cardiorespiratory fitness on Alzheimer's disease. However, it is only a small sample and only looks at fitness at one point in time.
From previous studies we know there is evidence that the loss of brain volume is linked to poorer cognitive performance. Cognition includes our ability to process information, problem solve, learn, make decisions, and plan. People with early Alzheimer's disease may be able to preserve their brain function for a longer period of time by exercising regularly and potentially reducing the amount of brain volume lost.
There is a lot of research to show that exercising the brain is helpful in Alzheimer's prevention; the so-called ‘use it or lose it' approach. So what exercise can the over 60s do that will help? It doesn't have to be too radical to get fit. Brisk walks, swimming, taking a bike ride, getting a rowing machine can all help. You can improve your social life while exercising by joining a gym, a dance class, doing yoga, etc.
Regular exercise, about 45 minutes five times a week, is such as small price to pay to improve your mental and physical health. It you have any pre-existing health issues you do need to check with your doctor what type of exercise is best for you and whether there are limitations.