Scientists have known for some time that getting regular aerobic exercise can help delay the onset of age-related mental decline, but a recent study found that just a small amount of exercise may help reduce the symptoms of Alzheimer's disease.
"Regular aerobic exercise could be a fountain of youth for the brain," lead study author Laura Baker said in a statement.
Baker's study involved 70 older adults with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) and diabetes, both of which can lead to an increased risk of developing Alzheimer's. The participants were split into two groups and assigned to do 45 minutes to an hour of either aerobic activity on a treadmill or stretching per week. This regimen was continued for six months, during which the researchers tested the participants on verbal recall and decision-making ability and examined brain scans, spinal fluid and blood samples.
The study found that the levels of a protein called tau, which are elevated in Alzheimer's patients, were decreased in the bloodstreams of the participants who participated in vigorous aerobic activity. They also showed better performance on the mental tests than those who only stretched rather than working out. This may have been due to improved blood flow to their brains' memory and processing centers.
"Exercise or regular physical activity might play a role in both protecting your brain from Alzheimer's disease and other dementias, and also living better with the disease if you have it," concluded chief science officer Maria Carrillo of the Alzheimer's Association.
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