Can Exercise be the Best Medicine for Preventing Alzheimer’s Disease?

Can Exercise be the Best Medicine for Preventing Alzheimer’s Disease?

Exercise to Prevent Alzheimer's

As part of our commitment to keeping our readers updated on the latest research and findings on Alzheimer’s disease, we are sharing a study from the University of Maryland’s School of Public Health. While exercise is known to be a critical factor in maintaining a healthy lifestyle, there is growing evidence to indicate it may also be good for the brain.

Exercise May Be Linked to Improved Brain Health

The study by Dr. J. Carson Smith, assistant professor in the Department of Kinesiology, was published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease. It is the first research trial to demonstrate how exercise can be used as an intervention technique for older adults who live with a mild cognitive impairment.

The trial showed that exercise not only improves memory recall but also improved brain function. Physically inactive older adults ranging in age from 60-88 years old were divided in to two groups. The average age of study participants was 78. One group was comprised of older adults living with mild cognitive impairment and the other with normal, healthy brain function. Each group followed a 12-week program of regular treadmill walking. Exercise was supervised by a personal trainer.

By the end of the study, both groups had improved their cardiovascular fitness by about ten percent. They also improved their memory performance and showed improvements in neural efficiency when involved in memory retrieval tasks.

The Bottom Line on Exercise for Alzheimer’s Prevention

The bottom line is that the amount of exercise participants engaged in during the trial isn’t overly aggressive. It is the same recommendation most physicians are already making to patients. That is, you should get 30 minutes of moderate exercise (that which raises your heart rate but allows you to maintain a conversation) five days a week.

Just one more reason to lace up your sneakers and head out for a walk each day!

 

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Walking to Prevent Falls

Falls continue to be one of the leading causes of fatal injuries for older adults in this country. It is why finding ways to prevent them continues to be a focus of so many aging-related researchers. One study that might be of interest to our readers was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in June. The article, Effect of Structured Physical Activity on Prevention of Major Mobility Disability in Older Adults, explored how walking might help seniors beat or decrease their odds of being injured in a fall.

What Role Does Walking Play in Fall Prevention?

The goal of the project was to evaluate the potential link between older adults levels of physical activity and the role exercise could play in preventing disability. While seniors are often afraid a more active lifestyle will increase their odds of experiencing a disabling fall, this study took the opposite approach. Researchers posed a different question. Could higher levels of daily physical activity be considered a sound fall prevention practice?

 

The two-year long study was made up of 1,635 people between the ages of 70 and 89 years of age. Older adults chosen to participate in the project were considered to be sedentary by scoring low on a senior fitness scale. Each of them was able to walk one-quarter of a mile unassisted when the study began.

During the trial:

  • Participants came to a research center once a month for education on a variety of topics related to healthy aging.
  • A sub-group of participants was randomly assigned to also participate in a twice-weekly fitness program at the center. This group underwent supervised stretching activities and walks. In addition to the organized exercise activities, members of this sub-group also exercised on their own three hours each week.
  • Every trial study member was assessed twice each year during the study to see if they could still complete a quarter-mile walk.

At the study’s conclusion, researchers found that those who were also enrolled in the exercise subgroup were 18% less likely to have suffered any short-term physical disability during the trial and 28% less likely to have had a permanent disability.

Talk with Your Primary Care Physician First

If you or a senior loved one lead a sedentary lifestyle, the results of this study should be motivation for making a change. Talk with your primary care physician first. Ask them for their help in determining the safest way to begin increasing your level of physical activity.

Heritage Senior Communities is pleased to announce that our newest community is set to open this month in Holland, Michigan. The Village at Appledorn West will offer adults over the age of 55 one- and two-bedroom independent living apartments. The campus will also be expanded to include assisted living in the spring of 2015.