A study led by researchers from the University of Maryland School of Public Health reveals that a little bit exercise daily could improve cognitive function in people at risk of Alzheimer’s.
17 participants were analysed with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) i.e. early memory loss connected with Alzheimer’s disease -alongside 18 controls. Both groups were of similar age, gender, education, genetic risk and had similar medication use.
The participants were asked to practice a 12-week exercise program, that included walking on a treadmill at moderate intensity while being supervised by a personal trainer.
Before and after the exercise program, both groups were asked to complete memory tests.
Both groups improved their fitness levels by around 10% showed the results of the study.
The areas of the brain that activated with improved efficiency were those very areas of the brain that lead to a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease. The areas included were the precuneus region -, the temporal lobe and the parahippocampal gyrus
“We found that after 12 weeks of being on a moderate exercise program, study participants improved their neural efficiency – basically they were using fewer neural resources to perform the same memory task. No study has shown that a drug can do what we showed is possible with exercise” says Dr. J. Carson Smith, assistant professor in the Department of Kinesiology at the university.
Dr. Smith added, “People with MCI are on a very sharp decline in their memory function, so being able to improve their recall is a very big step in the right direction.”
What makes these results even more interesting is that these results were achieved using the levels of exercise that are in line with physical activity recommendations for older adults say the researchers.
Dr. Smith says, “for further research, he would like to look at a larger study involving more participants who are healthy but have a higher risk of Alzheimer’s genetically”.