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How Much Exercise Do You Really Need To Prevent Alzheimer's?

Are you concerned about Alzheimer’s? If not, you probably should be. 

That’s because according to new data the number of people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s is set to triple by the year 2050.1

But the news isn’t all bad.

According to researchers at the Mayo Clinic you can lower your risk of developing Alzheimer’s by simply getting more exercise.2

Because, while many people affected with Alzheimer’s do have a genetic predisposition to the disease, a full 1/3 of the cases can be attributed to risk factors like diabetes, obesity, smoking and physical inactivity. 

But why lack of exercise?

Simple, exercise helps improve blood flow and boosts oxygen consumption, both of which are extremely advantageous to the brain. 

By itself, exercise can make the brain function better. 

And a better functioning brain is more resistant to cognitive diseases like Alzheimer’s and dementia. 

Plus, exercise can have a positive effect on all the other risk factors.

It reduces your risk of heart attack, of having a stroke and of developing diabetes. 

This makes exercise the single best way to fight Alzheimer’s.

In fact, a recent study published in the Journal of International Neuropsychology suggests that exercise can strengthen parts of the brain usually weakened by Alzheimer’s.3

And when researchers from the University of Maryland School of Public Health put older adults on a moderate exercise program, they found that the thickness of the outer part of the brain increased. 

This area is called the cortex and it’s associated with higher cognitive function. And the thickening of this area potentially offers protection against brain diseases like dementia.  

So How Much Exercise Do You Need?

While researchers are convinced that exercise can offer significant protection from cognitive decline, the question has always been just how much is needed?

A recent study appears to have the answer. 

In this study published in the Journal of Alzheimer's Research, researchers found that just 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week can have extremely positive effects on memory and performance. Plus, it only takes about 12 weeks or less to see the positive improvements. 

What Type of Exercise Is Best
For Brain Health?

Recently, Gregory Panza an exercise physiologist in the Department of Cardiology at Hartford Hospital in Hartford, CT — and his research team examined the brain benefits of exercise using some of the latest technology.4

They started with a review of the existing research which was comprised of 19 studies. These studies looked at the effects of exercise on the cognitive function of at-risk seniors. 

In total, 1,145 seniors at risk for Alzheimer’s due to a variety of risk factors were evaluated. 

What Panza and his team found was that the cognitive function in elderly adults who participate in aerobic exercise only, was three times better than that of seniors who did both aerobic and strength training exercises in combination. 

However, they also found that overall seniors who did any type of exercise showed better cognitive function when compared to seniors who didn’t exercise at all. 

In fact, those who didn’t exercise showed a decrease in overall cognitive ability. 

In addition to their findings that aerobic exercise was superior the researchers also confirmed the WHO’s guidelines for physical activity.

The authors concluded:

"Our findings suggest that exercise training may delay the decline in cognitive function that occurs in individuals who are at risk of or have AD [Alzheimer's disease], with aerobic exercise possibly having the most favorable effect."

The authors went on to say that their study was the first study to show the superiority of aerobic exercise as it relates to cognitive function as well as it’s role in delaying the onset of Alzheimer’s in at risk individuals. 

The bottom line: If you want to delay the onset of age related cognitive decline, whether you’re at risk or not…

Exercise is your best bet.

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References:

1. "Alzheimer’S Cases To Triple By 2050." Fisher Center for Alzheimer's Research Foundation.

2. "Alzheimer's Disease: Can Exercise Prevent Memory Loss?." Mayo Clinic.

3. Reiter, Katherine et al. "Improved Cardiorespiratory Fitness Is Associated With Increased Cortical Thickness In Mild Cognitive Impairment." Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society 21.10 (2015): 757-767.

4. Panza, Gregory A. et al. "Can Exercise Improve Cognitive Symptoms Of Alzheimer's Disease?." Journal of the American Geriatrics Society 66.3 (2018): 487-495.

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