Exercising Regularly Could Prevent Cognitive Decline and Onset of Alzheimer’s, Study Shows

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Regular walking has been found to strengthen connections in and between brain networks among older adults, according to researchers from the University of Maryland School of Public Health. In a recent study, participants walked on a treadmill four days a week for 12 days, resulting in improved connections within their brain networks and better recall abilities.

Exercising can slow the onset of Alzheimer’s disease

Researchers also noted that one of these brain networks is associated with Alzheimer’s disease, suggesting that exercise can enhance brain health, slow cognitive decline, and potentially delay the onset of Alzheimer’s.

In the study, researchers investigated the brains and memory abilities of two elderly adult groups comprising those with normal brain function and individuals with mild cognitive impairment. Mild cognitive impairment refers to a slight decline in an individual’s mental abilities, like reasoning, memory, and judgment and is considered a risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease.

Principal study investigator Professor J. Carson Smith and his team discovered that brain networks deteriorate over time in individuals with Alzheimer’s disease and mild cognitive impairment. As a result of these deteriorations, an individual may experience memory and cognitive function loss. Interestingly the study showed that exercise can enhance connections, thus averting cognitive decline.

In a previous study, Smith demonstrated that walking could decrease cerebral blood flow and enhance brain function in older adults with mild cognitive impairment. To further investigate this, a group of 33 individuals aged 71 to 85 participated in the current project and walked on a treadmill four days a week over 12 weeks.

Exercise enhances brain activity

Prior to and following each exercise session, the participants were asked to read a short story and retell it with as much detail as possible. Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) was used to measure changes in communication within and between the three brain networks responsible for cognitive function. According to Prof. Smith, exercise can enhance brain activity and synchronization, potentially promoting neuroplasticity. Therefore exercise could be instrumental in stabilizing or preventing cognitive decline and averting the progression to AD.

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