Exercise training can slow Alzheimer's development

Exercise training can slow Alzheimer's development

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Does aerobics protect the brain?

Doing more exercise a week can delay brain cognitive decline in people at high risk for Alzheimer's.

A recent study by the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center found that regular exercise could protect people at high risk of Alzheimer's from brain deterioration. The results of the study were published in the English-language journal "Journal of Alzheimer Disease".

Regular exercise protects our memory

The current investigation found that people with an accumulation of amyloid beta in the brain, a hallmark of Alzheimer's disease, experienced slower degeneration in a memory-critical region of the brain when they exercised regularly for a year. Although physical activity does not prevent the possible spread of toxic amyloid plaques, which are responsible for killing neurons in the brain of people with dementia, the results suggest a way to slow the effects of the disease through aerobic exercise, at least if it does the disease is still in its early stages.

Lower volume reduction in the hippocampus through aerobics

If the results of the study can be repeated in a larger study, high-risk patients may one day be instructed to exercise more. 70 people aged 55 and over participated in the study. The researchers compared cognitive function and brain volume between two groups of older adults with memory problems. One group did aerobics for half an hour four to five times a week. The other group only carried out so-called flexibility training. Both groups showed similar cognitive skills in areas such as memory and problem solving during the study. Brain imaging, however, showed that people who performed aerobic exercise experienced a somewhat lower volume reduction in their hippocampus when amyloid was formed. This region of the brain continues to deteriorate with increasing dementia.

Slow rate of atrophy by movement?

Interestingly, participants' brains reacted more strongly to the aerobic exercises with amyloid. Although the intervention did not prevent the hippocampus from becoming smaller, the atrophy rate could be slowed down by movement, reports study author Dr. Rong Zhang of the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in a press release. More research is needed to determine how or whether the reduced atrophy rate is good for cognition.

Brains from mice benefited from exercise

Past studies have helped to better understand the molecular origins of the disease, including a discovery published last year that provides approaches to diagnosing the condition before symptoms appear. The latest research builds on numerous studies that show connections between fitness and brain health. For example, a 2018 survey showed that people with lower fitness experienced a faster deterioration in the vital nerve fibers in the brain, also known as white matter. Studies in mice have similarly shown that movement correlates with slower worsening of the hippocampus. This prompted the researchers to investigate whether the same effects can also be found in humans. The current investigation is just a so-called proof-of-concept study from which no conclusions can be drawn.

Molecular biological knowledge can be converted into a treatment?

Dr. Zhang is currently leading a five-year national clinical trial aimed at examining the possible link between physical activity and dementia. This study involved more than 600 adults between the ages of 60 and 85 who were at high risk for Alzheimer's. This study will measure whether aerobic exercise and taking specific medications can help lower high blood pressure and cholesterol, maintain brain volume and cognitive skills. Understanding the molecular basis for Alzheimer's disease is important, explains Dr. Zhang. Nevertheless, the most important question in this area of ​​research must be whether the growing molecular biological knowledge can be converted into an effective treatment. (as)

Author and source information

This text corresponds to the specifications of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.


  • Tarumi T, Rossetti H, Thomas BP, Harris T, Tseng BY et al .: Exercise Training in Amnestic Mild Cognitive Impairment: A One-Year Randomized Controlled Trial., In Journal of Alzheimer Disease (query: 18.09.2019), Journal of Alzheimer's disease
  • Exercise Could Slow Withering Effects of Alzheimer’s, in Journal of Alzheimer Disease (query: 18.09.2019), Journal of Alzheimer Disease

Video: Alzheimers can be slowed with exercise, Univ. of Texas study shows (January 2023).