How Exercise Might Help Prevent Alzheimer's

Sunrise Senior Living  |  June 5, 2019
How Exercise Might Help Prevent Alzheimer's
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If a family elder has Alzheimer’s disease, you might wonder if you are at risk for developing it too. That is understandable if you’ve watched while someone you love struggles with this disease.

Though the studies linking Alzheimer’s to genetics are still inconclusive, it never hurts to take steps to lower your risk. One possibly helpful habit is regular exercise.

Researchers say engaging in exercise may reduce your risk. It lowers stress and decreases the chance for heart disease and diabetes, which are believed to contribute to Alzheimer’s disease.

Brain Health and Alzheimer’s Disease

In a study published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, researchers investigated the potential connection between brain health and Alzheimer’s prevention. They recruited sedentary seniors with an average age of 78 to participate in their study.

Researchers divided the participants into two groups:

  • seniors with mild cognitive impairment
  • seniors believed to be healthy.

Over a 12-week period, participants exercised on a treadmill under the supervision of a personal trainer. At the end of the 12 weeks, the older adults from both groups showed improvement in cardiovascular fitness, memory performance, and neural efficiency.

Researchers concluded that exercise probably plays a key role in maintaining and possibly even improving brain function and memory recall. This might even extend to those who have mild cognitive impairment.

Senior-Friendly Fitness Activities to Boost Brain Health

Another encouraging finding from this study was the amount of exercise it takes to make a difference. Seniors who participated in this study only engaged in a modest amount of exercise.

Participants walked on a treadmill at a moderate pace for 30 minutes five times a week. A moderate pace is a speed that raises the heart rate while allowing the exerciser to carry on a conversation.

Your local fitness center might have a Silver Sneakers program or other senior group you can join. If you are an older adult who prefers to exercise in your own home, you might want to invest in a treadmill or recumbent bike. You can exercise while watching your favorite television program or listening to an audiobook.

Two free fitness programs structured to help seniors stay physically active can be accessed online:

  • Growing Stronger: This program was established by Tufts University and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
  • Go4Life: This comprehensive senior fitness program was created by the National Institute on Aging at NIH.

If you are an older adult who hasn’t been exercising, talk with your doctor before getting started. You might also find our article, “9 Exercising Tips for Beginners,” helpful.

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