Exercising regularly is not only good for old age, but it can also help prevent the development of Alzheimer’s physical symptoms, according to a study.
“Our research shows that in the middle-aged population who suffer from Alzheimer’s disease, physically active people experience lower age-related changes in disease-related biomarkers, as well as memory and cognitive function,” says assistant professor Ozioma Okonkwo, at the University of Wisconsin.
For results, the research team conducted three studies – in the first study, the researchers examined 317 participants enrolled in the Wisconsin Registry for Alzheimer’s Prevention, an on-going observational study of more than 1,500 people with a parental history of Alzheimer’s dementia.
In the second study, the researchers studied 95 people from the registry who were given the so-called polygenic risk scores based on whether they had certain genes associated with Alzheimer’s.
Similarly, a third study examined MRIs from 107 people in the registry who were asked to walk on the treadmill to determine their oxygen uptake rate, a measure of aerobic fitness.
Participation in the registry includes a preliminary assessment of the biological, health, and lifestyle factors associated with the disease and subsequent assessments every two to four years.
All participants completed a questionnaire about their physical activity and underwent a neuropsychological test and brain scan to measure several biomarkers associated with Alzheimer’s disease. Researchers compared data from people younger than 60 years with adults and found a decrease in cognitive abilities and an increase in disease-related biomarkers in the elderly.
However, these effects are significantly weaker in older adults who engage in at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise equivalent to five days a week.
“The most interesting part of our research is that lifestyle habits – in this case regular, moderate exercise – can modify the effect of what is generally considered an irreversible risk factor for Alzheimer’s. In this case, aging,” said Okonkwo.
“Overall, these studies suggest that the negative impact of aging and genetic risk on Alzheimer’s disease biomarkers and cognition may be mitigated in physically active, older adults compared with their less active peers.”