The biggest fear surrounding Alzheimer’s disease would have to be memory loss.
A new study, however, has shown promising signs that aerobic exercise may help slow memory loss in older adults who are living with Alzheimer’s induced dementia.
Arizona State University led a trial that included 96 older adults living with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s dementia. Those participants were separated randomly into a group performing cycling exercise on a stationary bike or a group doing stretching exercise. Both groups were monitored for six months
Using the Alzheimer’s Disease Assessment cognition scale, researchers were able to track the progression of the disease compared with the standard decline in the disease without exercise.
The results were substantial.
“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,” Professor Fang Yu explained.
The trial, however, was not able to definitively pinpoint a superior effect of aerobic exercise over stretching, but the researchers believed that this may have been due to the pilot nature of the trial and the normal behaviour of some of the trial participants.
“We don’t have the statistical power to detect between-group differences; there was substantial social interaction effect in the stretching group, and many stretching participants did aerobic exercise on their own,” Prof. Yu explained.
The researchers explained that the pilot trial results are encouraging and support the clinical relevance of promoting aerobic exercise in individuals with Alzheimer’s dementia to maintain cognition.
And Prof. Yu pointed out that this type of exercise has additional benefits for older adults.
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“Aerobic exercise has a low profile of adverse events in older adults with Alzheimer’s dementia as demonstrated by our trial,” Prof. Yu explained.
“Regardless of its effect on cognition, the current collective evidence of its benefits supports the use of aerobic exercise as an additional therapy for Alzheimer’s disease.”
Aerobic exercise is any type of cardiovascular conditioning – i.e. cardio. It could be brisk walking, swimming, jogging, running, cycling or using a skipping rope – you just need to raise your heart rate and get a bit out of breath. But start very gradually if you’re new to fitness.
It isn’t just those who already have Alzheimer’s disease who can benefit from adding more aerobic exercise to their routine, either.
Last year, YourLifeChoices reported on a study that showed aerobic exercise could improve memory in all older adults.
How much aerobic exercise do you do as part of your fitness regime?
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