Health & Wellness

Exercise May Help Fend Off Alzheimer’s Disease

New study results suggest that it’s never too late to start protecting your brain


New research has shown that moderate exercise in middle age and later may slow down the progression of Alzheimer’s disease. The American Psychological Association (APA) made the announcement after research from three studies was presented at this year’s annual convention. Previous studies have suggested that exercise can combat memory loss and prevent dementia.

While the sample sizes of each of the studies were small, with the largest one involving just over 300 people, each study found that those who exercised had fewer neurochemicals in the brain associated with Alzheimer’s disease.

Alzheimer’s disease results when there’s an excess of these neurochemicals, also referred to as biomarkers, in the brain. Their presence can predict one’s risk for developing the disease in the future and mark how far the disease has progressed once someone has already been diagnosed. They can be analyzed via brain scans, as well as through lumbar punctures.

“Our research shows that, in a late-middle-age population at risk for Alzheimer’s disease, physically active individuals experience fewer age-related alterations in biomarkers associated with the disease, as well as memory and cognitive functioning,” said Ozioma Okonkwo, an assistant professor of medicine at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, in a release from the APA.

One of the three studies also found those already identified as being at risk for developing the disease had fewer biomarkers in the brain associated with the disease after exercise, suggesting that even those at risk can make lifestyle choices to prevent or slow the progression of the disease.

“The most interesting part of our research is that we now show evidence that lifestyle habits—in this case regular, moderate exercise—can modify the effect of what is commonly considered a non-modifiable risk factor for Alzheimer’s, in this case aging,” Okonkwo said.

Photo: iStock/Lordn.