Study Finds Exercise Slows Alzheimer’s Progression Better Than Drugs

Regular exercise prevents cognitive decline and boosts brain activity

brain-xray_244x172This article originally appeared on Live in the Now.

The latest statistics reveal that one in three people will die with some form of Alzheimer’s disease or some other form of dementia, and Alzheimer’s disease recently escalated to become the sixth leading cause of death in the U.S. It is estimated that five million people presently live with the disease, causing an estimated 210 billion dollars in health care costs each year.

Despite the thousands of well constructed scientific studies showing that poor diet and lifestyle practices promote Alzheimer’s and dementia, pharmaceutical giants continue to plow billions into a futile search for a magic bullet that will treat or prevent this devastating illness. Continued evidence has been released by a group of researchers from the University of Maryland School of Public Health that shows how exercising for 150 minutes each week may be the best treatment for Alzheimer’s disease. Publishing in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, scientists reveal that exercise could improve cognitive function in people at risk of Alzheimer’s by improving the efficiency of brain activity.

To set up their study, the team analyzed seventeen participants with mild cognitive impairment, an early form of memory loss that is believed to be a precursor to full-blown Alzheimer’s disease, and compared with eighteen control members. Both groups were of similar age, gender, education, genetic risk and used similar medications. All participants were asked to carry out a twelve week exercise program consisting of walking on a treadmill at moderate intensity while being supervised by a personal trainer.

Before and after the exercise program, both groups were asked to complete memory tests designed to determine famous name recognition and list learning tasks. While both groups experienced a ten percent improvement in overall fitness levels, researchers found a significant increase in the intensity of brain activation in eleven brain regions as the participants correctly identified famous names. Of considerable importance, the areas of the brain activated with improved efficiency were the same areas of the brain that lead to a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease.

Lead team leader, Dr. J. Carson Smith concluded, “We found that after 12 weeks of being on a moderate exercise program, study participants improved their neural efficiency… basically they were using fewer neural resources to perform the same memory task. No study has shown that a drug can do what we showed is possible with exercise.” The study results were achieved with moderate physical activity, thirty minutes a day over five days of the week. Interestingly, the same type of exercise has also been shown to ward off heart disease… isn’t it time to get moving?

Extensive research studies have clearly demonstrated that Alzheimer’s disease risk is increased by lifestyle influences that alter genetic expression toward disease. Diet, exposure to toxic household and environmental pollutants and lack of physical activity are all known to flip the metabolic gene switch that can either protect against or promote the disease.

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Additional sources for this article include:
http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2013-07/uom-emb073013.php

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