Just 30 minutes a day of exercise 5 days a week can reduce Alzheimer’s risk, providing benefits in the brain cortex, improving functional ability, memory performance and reducing brain atrophy.
It is possible that there are many ‘causes’ of cognitive decline. However, exercise is known to combat both frailty and cognitive decline.
A 2019 study, this time by the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health has shown that people in late middle age can significantly reduce the biomarker’s for Alzheimer’s by taking just two and a half hours exercise a week, as five days each for 30 minutes. Dr. Ozioma Okonkwo and the team used the Wisconsin Registry for Alzheimer’s Prevention who follows 1500 people with parents who had Alzheimer’s/Dementia. They also confirmed that those people with a higher aerobic fitness had less biomarkers.
This confirmed a 2015 study(1) by researchers from The Jackson Laboratory, Bar Harbor, Maine and carried in Plos Biology showing that age-related changes occur in the expression of genes relevant to the vascular system in the brain cortex. Capillaries and other blood-brain barrier maintenance factors were lost. Inflammation was another feature as was a loss in immune scavengers that keep the brain clear and ‘clean’.
Using mice, the research team found that all these ‘declines’ were reduced in individuals who took regular exercise.
Interestingly, those subjects who were deficient in a gene called APOE, a known risk factor for Alzheimer’s, did not benefit from exercise.
In a second study(2), this time using a 26 week programme of 150 minutes aerobic exercise with people showing early signs of Alzheimer’s disease, researchers from the University of Kansas Alzheimer’s Disease Center took 76 people with an average age of 72.9 years all showing early Alzheimer’s Disease symptoms. Neurophysiological testes were performed at the outset, and again in weeks 13 and 26. Cardio tests and brain MRIs were done at the outset and in week 26.
Aerobic exercise was associated with benefits in functional ability, improved memory performance and reduced hippocampal atrophy. The researchers, as with the newer Wisconsin study, concluded that aerobic exercise could reduce brain degeneration and dementia.
It may not simply be a question of ‘oxygenation’ though. For example, there are several studies that show exercise can change the composition of your gut microbiota, and gut microbes have been shown to have a strong influence over Alzheimer’s and Dementia.