Benefits of Exercise for Alzheimer’s Disease
Studies show that people who are physically active are less likely to experience a decline in their mental function and have a lowered risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. Being active and getting exercise helps people with Alzheimer’s disease feel better. Exercise helps keep their muscles, joints, and heart in good shape. It also helps them stay at a healthy weight and have regular toilet and sleep habits.
What is Alzheimer’s disease?
Also called senile dementia, Alzheimer is progressive mental deterioration that can occur in middle or old age, due to generalized degeneration of the brain. It is the commonest cause of premature senility. It is a progressive disease that destroys memory and other important mental functions. Brain cell connections and the cells themselves degenerate and die, eventually destroying memory and other important mental functions. Memory loss and confusion are the main symptoms. No cure exists, but medication and management strategies help improve symptoms.
Relationship between Exercise and Alzheimer’s disease
Most prospective studies have proven that physical inactivity is one of the most common preventable risk factors for developing AD and that higher physical activity levels are associated with a reduced risk of AD development. Physical exercise seems to be effective in improving several neuropsychiatric symptoms of AD, notably cognitive function. Compared with medications, exercise has been shown to have fewer side effects and better adherence.
The lack of physical activity was the highest attributable risk found in a systematic study that collated evidence from 163,000 non-psychotic participants and compared highest physical activity category to the participants with least relative risk of dementia. They found that the risk of dementia and AD can be lowered by 28% and 45% with physical activity.
Wendy Suzuki, PhD, was a successful scientist and academic. But in her 50s, Suzuki, a professor of neuroscience and psychology at the New York University Center for Neural Science, was so immersed in work that she had no social life, and she was overweight due to lack of activity.
So, she went back to the gym. After a short time, her mood was better. She had more energy and focus. And she lost weight.
With Suzuki’s field of expertise being the brain, the scientist decided to examine the effects of physical exercise through the prism of neuroscience. And what she found is great news for anyone hoping to remain mentally sharp and avoid Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. Her findings also fit a growing body of research that shows a powerful link between mental health and physical exercise.
Exercise is the most transformative thing one can do for brain, says Suzuki, who discusses the science behind the idea in a TED Talk.
“What if I told you there was something that you can do right now that would have an immediate, positive benefit for your brain, including your mood and your focus?” she says. “And what if I told you that same thing could actually last a long time and protect your brain from different conditions like depression, Alzheimer’s disease, or dementia?”
“I am talking about the powerful effects of physical activity — that is, simply moving your body has immediate, long-lasting, and protective benefits for your brain that can last for the rest of your life.”
The Alzheimer’s Association says regular cardiovascular exercise can help reduce the risk of getting the disease, echoing a similar message from scientists at the University of Southern California. They found that up to a third of Alzheimer’s cases are preventable through lifestyle changes, including physical exercise.
World Health Organization (WHO) issued following recommendations for people 65 and over:
- 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise every week
- Or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic exercise
- Or a combination of moderate and vigorous aerobic exercise combined with muscle-strengthening work.
Why Exercise Can Help Prevent Alzheimer’s
Exercise builds up the capacity of parts of your brain associated with memory and learning: the hippocampus and the prefrontal cortex.
Exercise anatomically strengthens two of the key targets.
New insight into the workings of the hormone irisin shows it has the ability to spur the cognitive benefits of exercise, holding promise for treating cognitive decline in Alzheimer’s disease, Harvard Medical School scientists at Massachusetts General Hospital have found.
In a study published in Nature Metabolism, the research team reports that irisin, secreted by muscles during exercise, could be an effective therapeutic for addressing deficits of the brain that result from Alzheimer’s disease.
Using mouse models, the team showed that genetic deletion of irisin impairs cognitive function in exercise, aging, and Alzheimer’s disease, which was in part caused by alterations of newborn neurons in the hippocampus.
The hippocampus is the compartment of the brain that stores memories and is the first to show signs of Alzheimer’s disease.
At the same time, the study found that elevating irisin levels in the bloodstream improved cognitive function and neuro inflammation in mouse models of Alzheimer’s disease.
“It’s hard to imagine anything better for brain health than daily exercise, and our findings shed new light on the mechanism involved: protecting against neuro inflammation, perhaps the biggest killer of brain neurons as we age”, said Joseph P. and Rose F. Kennedy Professor of Neurology at Harvard Medical School.
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- Relationship Between Exercise and Alzheimer’s Disease: A Narrative Literature Review
- Exercise and Alzheimer’s Disease
- Staying Physically Active with Alzheimer’s
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Abhinav Malhotra is an award-winning personal trainer, coach and sports nutritionist in Dubai, UAE. He also offers online services to clients around the world. A personal trainer par excellence, Abhi has worked with the world’s leading fitness chains, supplement brands and founded his own fitness academy in India. He has achieved successes for many clients from all backgrounds and has trained the Indian Army Rugby Team. He is the first International Kettlebell Sport athlete from India.