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Moderate-Intensity Exercise to Reduce Alzheimer Risk

New research suggests moderate intensity exercise is best format of physical activity to help reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

University of Wisconsin-Madison investigators found that for people at risk for Alzheimer’s, moderate-intensity exercise is better than light-intensity because the intensity level is linked to healthier patterns of glucose metabolism in their brain.

The investigation was led by senior author Dr. Ozioma Okonkwo, an assistant professor of medicine at the Wisconsin Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center and the UW School of Medicine and Public Health. First author Ryan Dougherty is a graduate student studying under the direction of Dr. Dane B. Cook, professor of kinesiology and a co-author of the study, and Dr. Okonkwo.

The research involved 93 members of the Wisconsin Registry for Alzheimer’s Prevention (WRAP), which with more than 1,500 registrants is the largest parental history Alzheimer’s risk study group in the world.

Investigators used accelerometers to measure the daily physical activity of participants, all of whom are in late middle-age and at high genetic risk for Alzheimer’s disease, but presently show no cognitive impairment.

Activity levels were measured for one week, quantified, and analyzed. This approach allowed scientists to determine the amount of time each subject spent engaged in light, moderate, and vigorous levels of physical activity.

Light physical activity is equivalent to walking slowly, while moderate is equivalent to a brisk walk and vigorous a strenuous run. Data on the intensities of physical activity were then statistically analyzed to determine how they corresponded with glucose metabolism.

Glucose metabolism is a measure of neuronal (nerve cell) health and activity in areas of the brain known to have depressed glucose metabolism in people with Alzheimer’s disease. To measure brain glucose metabolism, researchers used a specialized imaging technique called 18F-fluorodeoxyglucose positron emission tomography (FDG-PET).

Researchers discovered moderate physical activity was associated with healthier (greater levels of) glucose metabolism in all brain regions analyzed.

Interestingly, investigators noted a step-wise benefit: subjects who spent at least 68 minutes per day engaged in moderate physical activity showed better glucose metabolism profiles than those who spent less time.

“This study has implications for guiding exercise ‘prescriptions’ that could help protect the brain from Alzheimer’s disease,” said Dougherty.

“While many people become discouraged about Alzheimer’s disease because they feel there’s little they can do to protect against it, these results suggest that engaging in moderate physical activity may slow down the progression of the disease.”

“Seeing a quantifiable connection between moderate physical activity and brain health is an exciting first step,” said Okonkwo.

He explained that ongoing research is focusing on better elucidating the neuroprotective effect of exercise against Alzheimer’s disease.

Source: University of Wisconsin/EurekAlert
 
Photo: People at risk for Alzheimer’s disease who do more moderate-intensity physical activity, but not light-intensity physical activity, are more likely to have healthy patterns of glucose metabolism in their brain, according to a new UW-Madison study. Credit: University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Moderate-Intensity Exercise to Reduce Alzheimer Risk

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. (2017). Moderate-Intensity Exercise to Reduce Alzheimer Risk. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 22, 2018, from https://psychcentral.com/news/2017/06/23/moderate-intensity-exercise-to-reduce-alzheimer-risk/122343.html

 

Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 23 Jun 2017
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 23 Jun 2017
Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.