Exercise Prevents Alzheimer's Brain Damage, Study Says

Robyn Nazar RN BSN's picture
Alzheimer's disease and exercise
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Adults who participate in regular exercise may help stave of brain damage leading to diseases such as Alzheimer's and dementia, says new study.

It has been well documented that exercise is good for preventing a wide range of health ailments such as cardiovascular disease, obesity, diabetes, and may even add years onto one's life. However, scientists are just now learning about how exercise may also help keep the brain healthy as well.

“Exercise allows the brain to rapidly produce chemicals that prevent damaging inflammation”, said lead study researcher Professor Jean Harry from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. “This could help us develop a therapeutic approach for early intervention in preventing damage to the brain.”

Through a series of experiments on mice, Harry and his team of researchers found that exercise prior to the onset of brain damage releases an immune messenger in the brain called interleukin-6 which protects against harmful inflammatory responses. Without interleukin-6 the inflammation in response to damage causes a loss of function, often seen in Alzheimer's disease and dementia.

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The researchers believe that these findings could be key in helping prevent some of the harmful effects of cognitive diseases in people who are genetically predisposed.

“The study on the role of exercise as a therapeutic intervention will undoubtedly get a workout in the years to come,” said Dr. Ruth Barrientos from the Department of psychology and Neuroscience at the University of Colorado. “Perhaps the greatest challenge with this line of research will not be more discoveries of compelling evidence of the anti-neuroinflammatory effects of exercise, but instead, getting humans to exercise voluntarily and regularly.”

According to the the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, regular exercise for adults includes a minimum of 2.5 hours of moderate-intensity aerobic activity every week and muscle-strengthening activities at least 2 days per week. Moderate-intensity activities include brisk walking, cycling, swimming, dancing, etc. Adults who participate in vigorous-intensity exercise, such as running, only need 1.25 hours per week.

This research study was published in the August edition of the medical journal Brain, Behavior and Immunity.

Updated 8/5/3013

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