Exercise may do more than keep a healthy brain fit. New research suggests working up a good sweat may also offer some help once memory starts to slide — and even improve life for people with Alzheimer’s.
The effects were modest, but a series of studies reported Thursday found vigorous workouts by people with mild memory impairment decreased levels of a warped protein linked to risk of later Alzheimer’s — and improved quality of life for people who already were in early stages of the disease.
“Regular aerobic exercise could be a fountain of youth for the brain,” said cognitive neuroscientist Laura Baker of Wake Forest School of Medicine in North Carolina, who reported some of the research at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference.
Doctors have long advised that people keep active as they get older. Exercise is good for the heart, which in turn is good for the brain. Lots of research shows physical activity can improve cognition in healthy older people, potentially lowering their risk of developing dementia.
With no medications yet available that can slow Alzheimer’s creeping brain destruction, the new findings point to lifestyle changes that might make a difference after memory impairment begins as well. The caveat: check with a doctor to determine what’s safe for a person’s overall medical condition, especially if they already have Alzheimer’s.
“It’s important for caregivers especially to think how to keep loved ones as engaged as possible. The last thing they should do is keep their loved one at home watching TV,” said Alzheimer’s Association chief science officer Maria Carrillo.