Regular exercise benefits seniors facing onset of Alzheimer’s

The Los Angeles Times reports in “Science Now” on studies presented at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference suggesting that exercise may benefit people with mild cognitive impairment and “mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease.” In each of these studies, “subjects were asked to participate in three-to-four sessions of aerobic conditioning – ranging from 45 minutes to an hour – a week.” The goal “was to get participants working at between 70% and 80% of their aerobic capacity.”

The AP reports that researchers found that “vigorous workouts by people with mild memory impairment decreased levels of a warped protein” called tau that is “linked to risk of later Alzheimer’s – and improved quality of life for people who already were in early stages of the disease.”

One study involving magnetic resonance imaging scans demonstrated that “exercisers experienced increased blood flow in brain regions important for memory and thought processing – while cognitive tests showed a corresponding improvement in their attention, planning and organizing abilities.”

Dr. Laurie Ryan, of the National Institute on Aging, cautioned, however, that “it’s too soon to say that [exercise] lowers risk’ of worsening memory…saying longer studies must test if sticking with exercise makes a lasting difference.”

The NBC News website reports that another study found that “exercisers had far less anxiety, irritability, and depression than those who didn’t work out.” In fact, “those who exercised the most and the hardest scored significantly better on the Symbol-Digit Modalities test.”

HealthDay points out that in the third study involving participants who had “suffered ministrokes,” those “who took aerobics significantly improved their memory and selective attention, compared with those not asked to exercise regularly.”

These findings were presented at a medical conference. They should be considered preliminary as they have not yet undergone the “peer review” process, in which outside experts scrutinize the data prior to publication in a medical journal.

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