Exercising Later in Life Might Lower Risk for Alzheimer’s

Alissa Sauer
By Alissa SauerApril 30, 2014

It’s a well-known fact that exercise is good for your body, but did you know that exercise also has an impact on your brain? A new study from the University of Maryland shows that exercise may protect brain health, even in older adults who are at an increased risk for Alzheimer’s disease.

The Effects of Exercise on the Hippocampus

A new study from the University of Maryland researched the effects of regular exercise on seniors who were at risk for Alzheimer’s, and results showed that physical activity can actually preserve the volume of an individual’s hippocampus. This brain region is responsible for memory and is the first part of the brain attacked by Alzheimer’s disease. Shrinkage of the hippocampus is a common characteristic found in Alzheimer’s patients.

To conduct the study, researchers divided participants into four groups based on their risk for developing Alzheimer’s disease. Only the group that was at a high genetic risk for Alzheimer’s and who did not exercise, experienced a decrease in brain volume. All other groups, even the group at a high genetic risk, maintained the volume of their hippocampus with exercise.

What This Study Means for Seniors At Risk

Dr. Kirk Erickson, an associate professor of psychology at the University of Pittsburgh said this of the study: “There are no other treatments shown to preserve hippocampal volume in those that may develop Alzheimer’s. This study has tremendous implications for how we may intervene, prior to the development of any dementia symptoms, in older adults who are at increased genetic risk for Alzheimer’s disease.”

In addition, the Alzheimer’s Association recommends regular physical exercise to protect the brain and encourage the development of new brain cells. While more research is needed to determine the effects of exercise intervention on hippocampal volume and brain function, previous studies have shown similar positive results.  Another recent study from lead researcher Dr. Carson Smith found that a regular walking exercise program improved cognitive function for seniors at risk for dementia.

Dementia Fighting Exercises

While any type of exercise is better than no exercise, there are some exercises that are recommended to help seniors maintain a healthy lifestyle.

These exercises include:

  • Walking briskly
  • Dancing
  • Swimming
  • Gardening
  • Cycling
  • Bicep Curls
  • Chair Stands

What do you think about the effects of exercise on Alzheimer’s prevention? Does your loved one participate in a regular exercise program? 

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Alissa Sauer

Alissa Sauer

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