Alzheimer’s can strike anyone, beginning with altered structure and function of the brain years before any symptoms appear.There are a number of factors that play a role in the development of Alzheimer’s and dementia including genetics, environment, age, other medical conditions and lifestyle. The good news about lifestyle is that these are some of the factors you can control! By improving your diet, not smoking, staying socially connected and mentally stimulated, reducing stress and getting quality sleep plus getting regular exercise, you may be able to reduce other Alzheimer’s risk factors such as high blood pressure, diabetes and high cholesterol.
Brain Benefits of Exercise for Alzheimer’s
According to the Alzheimer’s Research and Prevention Foundation, recent studies have shown that regular exercise can reduce your risk for developing Alzheimer’s disease by a 50%!
Regular exercise reduces both memory loss and cognitive decline, even in those who carry the gene that puts them at higher risk for developing Alzheimer’s.Exercise may directly benefit your brain by increasing blood flow and oxygen, both of which improve brain function. Exercise also has heart health benefits. When you keep your heart healthy through diet and exercise, you also keep your brain healthy.
Exercise Your Body and Help Your Brain!
The magic number for an Alzheimer’s prevention exercise program according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is 150 minutes per week of moderate intensity exercise.
The ideal plan is a combination of strength training and cardio exercise that gets your heart pumping and your muscles moving:
- Playing tennis
- Using the elliptical, treadmill or stationary bike
- Lifting weights, resistance machines and isometrics
- Balance and coordination exercises such as Yoga and Tai chi – to prevent head injuries from falls
If you have not been active for awhile, starting an exercise program may seem hard. But remember, a little exercise is better than none! Adding only modest amounts of activity each week can have big effects on your overall health! So start small – with 10 minute walks a couple of times a day. Build yourself up gradually – it takes time to make exercise a new healthy habit. But you are worth the investment of your time and energy in body-brain healthy physical activity.
- Alzheimer’s Association. What is Alzheimer’s? https://alz.org/alzheimers_disease_what_is_alzheimers.asp. Accessed October 31, 2017.
- Alzheimer’s Association. The Search for Alzheimer’s Causes and Risk Factors. https://alz.org/alzheimers_disease_causes_risk_factors.asp. Accessed on October 31, 2017.
- Alzheimer’s Research and Prevention Foundation. 4 Pillars of Prevention. http://alzheimersprevention.org/4-pillars-of-prevention/. Accessed on October 31, 2017.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Fast Stats on Physical Activity. https://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/basics/adults/index.htm. Accessed October 31, 2017.
- Scarmeas N, Luchsinger JA, Schupf N, Brickman AM, Cosentineo S, Tang MX, Stern Y. JAMA. 2009 Aug 12; 303 (6): 627-37. Physical activity, diet and risk of Alzheimer’s disease.