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Exercise Slows Brain Shrinkage

walkingA new study finds that mild Alzheimer’s disease patients with higher physical fitness had larger brains compared to mild Alzheimer’s patients with lower physical fitness.

The research is published in Neurology®, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

For the study, 121 people age 60 and older underwent fitness tests using a treadmill as well as brain scans to measure the white matter, gray matter and total volume of their brains. Of the group, 57 were in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease while the rest of the group did not have dementia.

“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, suggesting less brain shrinkage related to the Alzheimer’s disease process in those with higher fitness levels,” said study author Jeffrey M. Burns, MD, of the University of Kansas School of Medicine in Kansas City.

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

“This is one of the first studies to explore the relationship between cardiorespiratory fitness and Alzheimer’s disease,” said Burns.

Burns says people should be cautious when interpreting the study results because scientists only observed the standard measure of fitness at one point in time.

Source: American Academy of Neurology

Exercise Slows Brain Shrinkage

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2015). Exercise Slows Brain Shrinkage. Psych Central. Retrieved on May 21, 2018, from https://psychcentral.com/news/2008/07/15/exercise-slows-brain-shrinkage/2607.html

 

Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 6 Oct 2015
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 6 Oct 2015
Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.