Exercise Could Slow Physical Decline in Alzheimer's

  • Like it or not, exercise is good for us. Exercise helps to speed up our metabolism and strengthen our bones. Also, we’ve known for decades that exercise is good for the heart, and lately there have been many studies that have shown it’s good for the brain. So good, as a matter of fact, that now, according to a recent paper published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry, Researchers at Kyoto University Graduate School of Medicine in Japan concluded exercise is something we can do right now to help prevent Alzheimer’s disease.


    A recent article in the Washington Post tells us that exercise may have a mitigating effect on the physical decline that generally accompanies Alzheimer’s disease. A study published in the April 15 online issue of JAMA Internal Medicine involved 210 people with Alzheimer’s. They had an average age of 78, had shown a decline in mobility and were living at home with a spouse. Most of these people had moderate to severe Alzheimer’s disease and nearly all of them were taking medication for the disease. The participants were randomly assigned to one of three groups. Two of the groups exercised for an hour twice a week. A third group did no formal exercise.

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    For this study, the groups who exercised at home had the help of a physiotherapist, with the exercises tailored to each person’s specific needs. The other exercisers worked out in groups of 10 at an adult rehabilitation center day-care program. These exercises were also supervised by physiotherapists. The non-exercisers were given advice by nurses on the benefits of eating nutritional meals and exercising, but that was the extent of their help. 


    One year later, the physical abilities of all elders had deteriorated but the decline was slower in the groups that exercised. The very best results were found in the group that exercised at home. Since elders are at risk for falling, the study also watched for results on numbers of falls. Not surprisingly, more falls were recorded for those who did not exercise than for those who did.


    The researchers for the study said that they didn’t compare specific types of exercise. However, the physiotherapists who participated in the study had been trained in treating people with dementia. The authors think that it’s possible that the people who exercised in a group didn’t do as well because group activities can be difficult for some people with Alzheimer’s disease.


    That’s likely true. However, personally, I’m wondering if, as in so many issues associated with caring for people with Alzheimer’s disease, the individual attention received by the home exercisers may have made them feel more cared for and safe, which could contribute to concentrating more on their exercises. This is purely my speculation, but hands-on care does seem to have very positive effects on most people with AD. Whatever the reason for doing better, the groups that exercised helped the most required less hands-on assistance.


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    Exercise can be boring and many of us would rather do something else with our “free” time. However, a significant number of us – with or without dementia – find that once we start on an exercise routine, we’ll continue on to try to complete our goal for that day. Most of us will also acknowledge that we feel better after we’ve had a good workout, as long as the exercise is suited to our physical health.


    Today, more than 5 million Americans have Alzheimer’s. By 2025, the number is expected to reach seven million, and by 2050, 14 million people if a cure or prevention for AD is not found. If something as simple as exercise can help people stay independent longer, that’s wonderful news. If starting to exercise earlier in the process could prevent or delay Alzheimer’s disease, that’s even better news.

    Those of us who want to stay healthy will surely have to take a look at some type of exercise. Even brisk walking has been shown to have excellent benefits when done regularly, and no equipment is required other than some good shoes. Be sure to check with your doctor to make sure that the exercise you choose is right for you, but do try to choose something. The health rewards could be huge.


    For more information about Carol visit  www.mindingourelders.com or www.mindingoureldersblogs.com.   


    Searing, L (2013, April 22) Exercise may help slow loss of physical abilities in people with dementia. Retrieved from  http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/exercise-may-help-slow-alzheimers-related-loss-of-physical-abilities/2013/04/22/7367c852-a85a-11e2-b029-8fb7e977ef71_story.html


    Kinoshita, A.  (2012, June 27) Exercise is key in the fight against Alzheimer's disease. Retrieved from  http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2012-06/asfb-eik061312.php

Published On: May 01, 2013