More than five million Americans currently suffer from Alzheimer’s disease, and while a number of breakthroughs have occurred over the past few years, there is currently no cure for this devastating disease.
It’s well known that regular exercise can help prevent Alzheimer’s disease, but two recent studies have found that regular vigorous physical activity can also positively impact the symptoms of the disease and improve the quality of life of those who suffer from it.
Falling Tau Levels, Improved Executive Function
In the first study, conducted by the Wake Forest School of Medicine, participants who have mild cognitive impairment were assigned to a treadmill or stretching workout four times a week for 45 minutes to an hour. Over the course of six months, researchers tested various areas of cognitive performance, evaluated spinal fluid and blood, and conducted MRI scans.
Levels of Tau, which is the protein associated with Alzheimer’s, fell in those who exercised vigorously on the treadmill. They also experienced improved blood flow in the brain, and researchers noted measurable improvements in executive brain function as well. One author of the study pointed out that there is currently no medication available that can elicit these positive effects.
Improved Brain Function & Reduced Depression and Anxiety
In the second study, researchers at the University of Copenhagen assigned participants to either exercise vigorously three times a week or continue with their normal lifestyle. Over the course of the four-month study, the researchers found that the participants in the exercising group experienced considerably less anxiety, depression, and irritability than those in the sedentary group. Additionally, the participants who worked out the longest and hardest scored significantly better on a thinking and memory test.
Vigorous Exercise is Best
The Centers for Disease Control recommends getting 150 minutes of exercise each week–about a half hour a day five days a week–in order to help prevent diseases and improve your quality of life. Ideally, Alzheimer’s patients should strive to work out at 70 to 80 percent of their maximum heart rate for half or more of each session for the best possible results.