Dallas – Exercising several times a week may delay brain deterioration in people at high risk for Alzheimer’s disease, according to a study that scientists say merits further research to establish whether fitness can affect the progression of dementia.
Research from UT Southwestern found that people who had accumulation of amyloid beta in the brain – a hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease – experienced slower degeneration in a region of the brain crucial for memory if they exercised regularly for one year.
Although exercise did not prevent the eventual spread of toxic amyloid plaques blamed for killing neurons in the brains of dementia patients, the findings suggest an intriguing possibility that aerobic workouts can at least slow down the effects of the disease if intervention occurs in the early stages.
“What are you supposed to do if you have amyloid clumping together in the brain? Right now doctors can’t prescribe anything,” said Dr. Rong Zhang, who led the clinical trial that included 70 participants ages 55 and older. “If these findings can be replicated in a larger trial, then maybe one day doctors will be telling high-risk patients to start an exercise plan. In fact, there’s no harm in doing so now.”
The study published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease compared cognitive function and brain volume between two groups of sedentary older adults with memory issues: One group did aerobic exercise (at least a half-hour workout four to five times weekly), and another group did only flexibility training.