Alzheimer’s Disease is the most common type of dementia in the UK. It is a progressive brain disease that becomes more severe over time. Whilst the disease can be treated with medication there is currently no cure. The first telltale signs are usually forgetfulness and other minor memory problems. These can develop into more severe symptoms such as confusion, difficulty making decisions, speech or language difficulties and personality changes. The good news is that researchers have found that exercise and Alzheimer’s are not strange bedfellow and can have a positive impact wellbeing
Some exciting research from Arizona State University, suggests that aerobic exercise may slow down memory loss. The research study involved 96 older adults in a randomised control trial with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s dementia. Participants undertook exercise regimes involving cycling (on a stationary exercise bike) and stretching. Each member of the study group was assessed before the trial and after 6 months. Researchers found that 6-months of aerobic exercise can lower cognitive decline compared to the natural timeline for Alzheimer’s. Intriguingly, the study found little difference between cycling and stretching, both were equally beneficial.
Whilst the control group for this research was small, the findings are certainly positive and provide a positive way forward. Better still, they could be easily implemented. The research paper concludes by stating “Exercise may reduce decline in global cognition in older adults with mild-to-moderate AD dementia. Aerobic exercise did not show superior cognitive effects to stretching in our pilot trial.”
These findings are extremely encouraging. They also complemented the findings of a Finnish study featured in TheBoldAge, entitled ‘A healthy lifestyle reduces your dementia risk. This study looked at people aged between 45-65 years old and calculated a score for their cardiovascular health.
The Finnish report concluded that maintaining a satisfactory level of cardiovascular health throughout a person’s life can dramatically reduce their risk of contracting dementia in later life. They went onto say, people should focus on exercising regularly, achieving a healthy Body Mass Index (BMI) and quitting smoking.
If you need any inspiration, then have a read of ‘Slow Puncture’ by Peter Berry and Deb Bunt. Peter, a mad keen cyclist, has Young Onset Dementia, who, along with his co-author, have done much to promote living life to the full, despite this insidious condition. In the book they don’t shy away from the challenges, but it is also a book full of positivity.
So, go on boldies get on your bike, or get down to the gym. Most professional trainers can help you with the appropriate exercise and stretching programmes, to suit you.
Alzheimer’s Society (alzheimers.org.uk)
Alzheimer’s Research UK – the UK’s leading Alzheimer’s research charity (alzheimersresearchuk.org)
Peter Berry (@PeterBe1130) / Twitter