Seoul, South Korea – People with memory problems could prevent the onset of Alzheimer’s disease by exercising more than once a week, suggests a recent study. Regular exercise is believed to boost molecules that aid neuron growth and survival, 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 difficulties than is normal for people their age. People with mild cognitive impairments are ten times more likely to develop the disease compared to the general population.
The researchers found that those who were moderately active for at least ten minutes more than once a week had an 18 percent lower risk of developing Alzheimer’s. Among patients who exercised, those who exercised three to five times a week had a 15 percent lower risk of developing brain disease than those who exercised less.
Patients who started exercising after being diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment had an 11 percent lower risk of developing Alzheimer’s. Discontinuing exercise after diagnosis was associated with the same risk of developing the disease as non-exercising before or after diagnosis.
“Our results suggest that regular physical activity can prevent mild cognitive impairment from turning into Alzheimer’s disease. We suggest that patients with mild cognitive impairments should be advised to exercise regularly, ”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 prior to their diagnosis, our results suggest that regular exercise after diagnosis could significantly lower their risk of developing Alzheimer’s.”
The study looked at health records of people diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment in Korea between 2009 and 2015, with a mean age between 64 and 69 years. After a follow-up period, 8.7% of those who did not exercise were diagnosed with Alzheimer’s – compared with 4.8% of those who exercised more than once a week. Of those who started exercising after diagnosis, 6.3% developed the symptoms, compared with 7.7% of those who stopped exercising after diagnosis.
The results are published in the journal Alzheimer’s Research and Therapy.
SWNS writer Joe Morgan contributed to this report.