There is new support for the premise that exercise helps slow memory loss in older adults with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s dementia.
Researchers at Arizona State University (ASU) Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation split 96 study participants into two groups. One group did stretching exercises for six months, while the group rode a stationary bike. After six months, the scientists measured the level of cognitive decline in both study groups and compared that level the standard decline seen in individuals who do not exercise at all.
Lead researcher, Professor Fang Yu, found that the subjects who did the aerobic exercise and stretching had significantly less memory loss than those who don’t exercise at all, according to EurekAlert! Science News. They used the Alzheimer’s Disease Assessment Scale-Cognition scale to assess the rate of memory loss in both groups.
“Our primary finding indicates that a six-month aerobic exercise intervention significantly reduced cognitive decline in comparison to the natural course of changes for Alzheimer’s dementia,” said Dr. Yu, an expert in dementia at ASU. “However, we did not find a superior effect of aerobic exercise to stretching.”
The results were published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease. Dr. Yu pointed out that exercise has been shown to be beneficial to Alzheimer’s patients in general.
“The current collective evidence on its collective benefits supports the use of aerobic exercise as an additional therapy for Alzheimer’s disease,” she said, according to an ASU news release.
Dr. Gary Small M.D., a noted expert in Alzheimer’s disease, and chair of psychiatry at Hackensack University Medical Center, says that engaging in regular cardiovascular exercise elevates your heart rate and increases blood flow to the brain and body. Several studies have found an association between physical activity and reduced risk of cognitive decline says the author of the book, The Alzheimer’s Prevention Program.
“Try a 20-minute brisk walk daily and add strength training two to three times a week,” advises Small.
According to the Alzheimer's Association, more than 6 million Americans are now living with Alzheimer’s disease, and by 2050, that number is projected to rise to nearly 13 million. One in three seniors dies with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia. The disease kills more people than breast cancer and prostate cancer combined.
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