SEOUL, South Korea — People with memory issues could prevent the onset of Alzheimer’s disease by exercising more than once a week, suggests a recent study. Regular exercise is thought to boost molecules that support the growth and survival of neurons, or increase blood flow to the brain.
Researchers in South Korea examined the likelihood of developing Alzheimer’s disease in nearly 250,000 patients with mild cognitive impairment — patients with more memory and thinking struggles than is normal for someone their age. People with mild cognitive impairment are ten times more likely to develop the disease in comparison with the general population.
The researchers found that those who carried out moderate physical activity for at least ten minutes more than once per week had an 18 percent lower risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. Among the patients who exercised, those who exercised three to five times per week had a 15 percent lower risk of developing the brain disease than those who exercised less than that.
Patients who started exercising after their diagnosis of mild cognitive impairment had an 11 percent lower risk of developing Alzheimer’s. Stopping exercising after a diagnosis was associated with the same risk of developing the disease as not exercising before or after the diagnosis.
“Our findings indicate that regular physical activity may protect against the conversion of mild cognitive impairment to Alzheimer’s disease. We suggest that regular exercise should be recommended to patients with mild cognitive impairment,” says Dr. Hanna Cho, of Yonsei University College of Medicine, in a statement. “Even if a person with mild cognitive impairment did not exercise regularly before their diagnosis, our results suggest that starting to exercise regularly after diagnosis could significantly lower their risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.”
The study examined health records from people diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment in Korea from 2009 to 2015, with the average age between 64 and 69 years. After a follow-up period, 8.7% of participants who didn’t exercise were diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease — compared with 4.8% of those who worked out more than once per week. Of those who began exercising after diagnosis, 6.3% developed the conditions, versus 7.7% of individuals who stopped exercising after diagnosis.
Results are published in the journal Alzheimer’s Research and Therapy.
SWNS writer Joe Morgan contributed to this report.