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June 2024
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Mind Strong: A Resilient Mind Grounded in Exercise

Exercising to Treat Alzheimer's Disease When we think about exercise, we think about what kind of benefits it will bring to our body physically. That’s the primary reason why we exercise – to look better, feel better and live as healthy a life for as long as possible. But I’m beginning to believe that exercise may be just as important for the mind as it is for the body.

Anyone who exercises religiously and goes a day without it knows that feeling – that feeling that something’s missing, that you’re not as happy as you usually are.  That’s because the body releases endorphins through the physical act of running or biking.  So if anyone enjoys being happy, it’s in their best interest to exercise regularly (really, it works!).

But the benefits of exercise for the mind go much deeper than that.  According to new research – research that analysts believe is the first randomized clinical trial published linking the power of exercise on diminished brain function – moderate exercise appears to improve the mental capability of older adults suffering from Alzheimer’s.

Published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, Australian researchers recruited 85 adults (all of whom were also Australian) over the age of 50 and showing signs of diminished brain capacity.  They split the groups in two, asking both to do some kind of moderate exercise activity for two and a half hours per week and to keep an exercise journal to keep track of their progress.  But one of the groups was assigned to do something extra – exercise 20 minutes each day, on top of the two and a half hour requirement.  This group was labeled as the “exercise” group.

By the end of the trial period – about six months in total – the exercise group performed better in tests that measured the participants’ mental acuity and brain function, about 1.7 points better.  Further, the exercise group continued to perform better on brain function tests than the control group a year after the initial test (the groups were encouraged to continue exercising, which we can only assume they did).

Now, to me, this is just another nail in the coffin, another biscuit in the net confirming the fact that exercise is every bit as good as prescription pills in combating debilitating illnesses.  In fact, the results were so impressive that the researchers themselves said exercise appears at least as effective as the psychotropic drugs used to treat Alzheimer’s patients.

However, in classic “hedging your bets” style, the researchers are reluctant to advocate exercise as a proven treatment for Alzheimer’s patients.  They also say that this study should not suggest that exercise diminishes one’s chances of developing Alzheimer’s.

On that point I agree; Alzheimer’s is still too abstruse a disease to say definitively what will and will not increase one’s risk of developing it.  But I don’t agree with the good doctors on whether or not it should be prescribed as a treatment.  While their research might be the first “randomized, clinical trial” published in a medical journal, there are lots of other studies pinpointing physical activity as beneficial to fighting Alzheimer’s, including one that says exercise can reduce the amount of shrinkage the brain endures when affected by Alzheimer’s (see my article “Fighting Shrinkage”).  Another study conducted by the Mayo Clinic found that people who exercised for 15 years or more were less likely to have impaired brain function with age.

This is an exciting time.  More and more research continues rolling out about the breakthroughs in uncovering this mysterious disease.  I remain confident that if this kind of progression in the knowledge and treatment of Alzheimer’s continues, it will join smallpox as eradicated diseases.

Related Posts

  1. Fighting Shrinkage: Exercise Keeps Brain from Shrinking, Slows Alzheimer’s
  2. Reduce Risk of Cancer Death with Exercise
  3. Exercise Away the Pain
  4. Benefits of Exercise and your Life Expectancy
  5. Health Smarts, Strong Hearts: Study Shows Health Literacy Prolongs Life

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