We know exercise is good for us, not just physically for our hearts, keeping osteoporosis at bay, lowing our risk of diabetes and cancers but mentally as well, reducing depression and stress from the ‘feel good’ hormones, endorphin’s, released in our bodies from exercise.
While those who exercise know that the release of endorphin’s feels good, many do not know that exercise can go as far as helping those suffering from a condition like Alzheimer’s Disease, which accounts for between 50-70% of cases of dementia in Australia. Now, a new study* has revealed even stronger evidence that even moderate exercise can delay the onset of memory loss related to the disease. Personally, I couldn’t think of anything worse than losing my memory and to put my family through the pain of watching a loved one forget who they are etc isn’t an option to me.
The University of Nottingham (UK) research identified for the first time a stress hormone produced during moderate exercise that may protect the brain from Alzheimer’s-induced memory loss.
Exercise is Medicine Australia spokesperson Prof. Robert Newton, of Edith Cowan University, Perth, welcomed the findings.
“This new study builds on the evidence that people who are physically active have a lower risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease than those who are inactive,” Prof. Newton said.
“A well-managed, ongoing exercise program can improve cognition and memory in people with Alzheimer’s. Our recommendation, then, is to get active now – before you have to deal with such a devastating disease.”
Prof. Newton added, “While there is much we don’t know about the causes of the disease, the risk factors are largely associated with low levels of physical activity.”
Alzheimer’s and heart disease generally have the same risk factors such as reduced physical activity, obesity and conditions such as high cholesterol and blood pressure, reduced glucose tolerance or Type 2 diabetes, as well as a high proportion of body fat compared to muscle mass.
Exercise is Medicine Australia is hopeful that its aim to make every doctor consider physical activity and exercise as a standard part of treatment programs will result in more prescriptions for exercise, for prevention and treatment of chronic conditions.
The organisation maintains that exercise can help manage Alzheimer’s by slowing the progression of the disease, improving physical and mental function, slowing or even reversing muscle wasting often associated with the advanced disease and improving the mood, managing depression and lessening the behavioural problems of many patients. The new University of Nottingham research further supports this direction.
Meet or exceed the following:
– Continuous or intermittent aerobic (cardiovascular) exercise: 20–60 minutes per session, 3–5 times per week. It is recommended that this exercise is done at 60–90% of your maximum heart rate which is easily estimated as 220 minus your age in years. Examples may include running, walking, tennis, cycling or swimming.
– Resistance or weight training: aim for 6-8 different types of exercises per session – for each do 6–12 repetitions maximum performed over 3 sets. Try to do 2 or more sessions per week. It is important to exercise all major muscle groups weekly. Examples may include exercising with weights, aqua aerobics or bodyweight exercises such as push-ups, squats, lunges and step ups.
– Flexibility exercises for major muscle groups: 2–4 sets of each exercise 2–3 times per week. Examples may include yoga, pilates or stretching.
– Your total weekly exercise should be two to two-and a half hours, depending on the intensity of your aerobic exercise.
You can download a fact sheet on the role of exercise in managing Alzheimer’s Disease at www.exerciseismedicine.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/Alzheimers-disease-Full.pdf.
For more information please visit www.exerciseismedicine.org.au. It is strongly recommended that you see an accredited exercise physiologist for an appropriate and safe exercise prescription.