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Exercise ‘could delay Alzheimer’s effects’

15th July 2008

Exercise could help people with Alzheimer’s disease delay the effects on brain function, new research has found.

Scientists at the University of Kansas discovered that mild Alzheimer’s disease patients with higher physical fitness had larger brains compared to those with lower physical fitness.

They studied 121 people aged over 60 who underwent fitness tests using a treadmill.

Brain scans measured white matter, grey matter and total brain volume.

Of the group, 57 were in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease while the rest of the group did not have dementia.

The results, published in the journal Neurology, showed that people with early Alzheimer’s disease who were less physically fit had four times more brain shrinkage when compared to normal older adults than those who were more physically fit.

The researchers say this suggests less brain shrinkage related to the Alzheimer’s disease process in those with higher fitness levels.

The results remained the same regardless of age, gender, severity of dementia, physical activity and frailty. There was no relationship between higher fitness levels and brain changes in the group of people without dementia.

“People with early Alzheimer’s disease may be able to preserve their brain function for a longer period of time by exercising regularly and potentially reducing the amount of brain volume lost,” said study author Dr Jeffrey Burns.

“Evidence shows decreasing brain volume is tied to poorer cognitive performance, so preserving more brain volume may translate into better cognitive performance.”

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