I know I talk about exercise a lot, but that’s because it plays such a crucial role in your health. Let’s not forget that just a few short millennia ago (which, in genetic terms, is the blink of an eye) we were not the sedentary creatures that we are today.
Of course, I say this as I am sitting at my desk typing away. But, to my credit, I did go to the gym this morning.
In fact, I think exercise is so critical that I have a gym in my office. And every patient I see gets evaluated by a medical exercise specialist, no matter what condition(s) they might be struggling with.
But from what I’ve just read in three new clinical trials, exercise may actually be the best medicine there is for combatting dementia and Alzheimer’s.
I don’t know about you, but I’ll take exercising any day over drugs. Especially the useless, side-effect-riddled ones Big Pharma has to offer for Alzheimer’s.
But let’s get into the research.
And, I have to say, this research is pretty promising. Because, remarkably, all three studies found that engaging in physical activity led to significant improvements in several key areas of cognition: mood, memory, and the ability to think clearly.
The first study was conducted at Wake Forest School of Medicine. It consisted of 65 sedentary people, age 55-89 who had pre-diabetes and weren’t exercising regularly at the outset of the study.
The participants were randomly split into two groups. The first performed low-impact stretching exercises for 6 months. The second engaged in 45 minutes of high intensity aerobics 4 times a week during the 6 month period.
Nearly all of the participants stuck to their exercise programs. And regardless of which group they were in, they all showed improved fitness and blood sugar levels at the end of the study.
But on MRI scans, the aerobic exercise group also showed marked improvements in blood flow to key areas of the brain. Blood flow to the brain typically decreases with age in everyone (not just those with Alzheimer’s). But this study showed exercise can actually reverse that age-related effect. It also reversed one of the specific hallmarks of Alzheimer’s disease.
The second clinical trial consisted of 200 Danish people between ages 50 and 90 who already had Alzheimer’s. They were randomly assigned to either an aerobic exercise program, or a control group (which performed no extra exercise).
Researchers found that those who exercised the most had fewer problems with mood swings, anxiety, irritability, and depression. Participants in the exercise group also experienced improvements in mental speed and attention.
The third study didn’t focus specifically on dementia, but did look at another form of cognitive impairment. It involved 71 people age 56-96 who had suffered from a stroke, which diminished their memory, as well as their ability to think.
Not surprisingly, the 35 people who engaged in regular aerobics classes significantly improved memory and selective attention, compared to those who didn’t exercise at all.
These are truly remarkable discoveries. Especially when you consider there is NO pharmaceutical drug that can even come close to these same effects. (But then again, exercise is free…so Big Pharma can’t make any money if doctors prescribe it instead of one of their supposed Alzheimer’s “wonder” drugs.)
What I love about studies like these is they bring <a href=”https://drpescatore.com/how-to-break-the-negative-genetic-cycle”>epigenetics</a> into the picture. Changing our behavior with something as simple as exercise can change the way our bodies — and brains — age.
How exciting is that?
Yes, these studies looked at the benefits of high-intensity aerobics. And I completely understand that level of activity may be too much for some people. But ANY exercise that gets your heart rate up will help boost blood flow to the parts of the brain where it’s needed most.
Taking a dance class, swimming, riding a stationary bike, or even going for a brisk walk will do the trick.
When it comes to your protecting your brain and cognitive function, the bottom line here is move it or lose it.