Fight the effects of cognitive decline with exercise

According to Alzheimer’s Australia, there are more than 342,800 Australians living with dementia. What’s more, an estimated 1.2 million people are involved in the care of a person suffering dementia. Dementia is the second leading cause of death in Australia, and sadly there is no cure. Research into possible treatments for Alzheimer’s disease is widespread, and increasingly the focus has turned to the benefits of exercise in reversing cognitive degeneration.

New research, due to be presented at the International Conference on Clinical Trials for Alzheimer’s Disease, has found that aerobic exercise improves brain function and reduces markers of neurodegeneration in older adults at risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. Laura Baker, lead investigator of the study, believes these results suggest that aerobic exercise may represent a promising disease-modifying therapeutic intervention for people in the early stages of Alzheimer’s.

The study involved a group of older adults between the ages of 55 and 89 with mild cognitive impairment and prediabetes. The participants undertook a structured exercise program involving either moderate to high intensity aerobics or stretching for 45-60 minutes, four times per week, for six months. The participants also completed assessments of cognition, body fat and glucose tolerance.

The results showed that the group who participated in aerobic exercise presented higher cognitive scores and improved glucose tolerance. It was also found that aerobic exercise led to significant increases in blood flow to certain areas of the brain, and not when the participants were exercising, but when they were at rest. Baker explained, ‘resting blood flow was increased in those areas of the brain where blood flow is typically decreased with ageing and with the onset and progression of Alzheimer’s disease.’

It is hoped that the results of this study will help motivate people to think about exercise in a different way. As Baker points out, ‘we all know that exercise is good for us, but maybe seeing observable, objective brain changes will provide the impetus to get us out the door to exercise’.

Source: 8th International Conference on Clinical Trials for Alzheimer's Disease