In a new study, researchers found that moderate exercise helps to prevent the development of physical signs of Alzheimer’s in those who are at risk for the disease.
The research was conducted by a team from the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine.
The team examined 317 participants enrolled in the Wisconsin Registry for Alzheimer’s Prevention, an ongoing observational study of more than 1,500 people with a history of parents with probable Alzheimer’s dementia.
These people were cognitively healthy and between the ages of 40 and 65 years at the time of enrollment.
All participants completed a questionnaire about their physical activity and underwent neuropsychological testing and brain scans to measure several biomarkers associated with Alzheimer’s disease.
The team found a decrease in cognitive abilities as well as an increase in biomarkers linked to Alzheimer’s in older people.
However, physically active people experience fewer age-related alterations in biomarkers linked to the disease, as well as memory and cognitive functioning.
These people did at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise five days a week.
The finding shows evidence that lifestyle habits, such as regular, moderate exercise, can modify the effect of what is commonly considered a non-modifiable risk factor for Alzheimer’s, such as aging.
In another study, the researchers studied 95 people, also from the registry.
Similar to the previous research, the found people with higher risk scores also showed increased biomarkers for the disease.
Again, the effect was weaker in people with greater aerobic fitness, a score incorporating age, sex, body mass index, resting heart rate and self-reported physical activity.
The researchers suggest that the negative effect of aging and genetic risk on Alzheimer’s’ disease biomarkers and cognition can be lessened by regular physical activity.
If these findings are supported by more prospective, controlled studies, it would provide compelling evidence for physical activity as an effective approach to prevention.
The lead author of the study is Ozioma Okonkwo, Ph.D., an assistant professor of medicine.
The study was presented at the annual convention of the American Psychological Association.
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