Does Exercise Help With Alzheimer’s Disease

Dementia is an umbrella term, there are many different types of dementia the most common being Alzheimer’s disease which makes up to 70% of this population.

It is a neurodegenerative disease that reduces cognitive and motor function that interferes with one’s social capacity and function with activities of daily living. Some symptoms include memory loss, behaviour change, cognitive impairment and loss of physical function.

It is one of the major causes of disability and dependency worldwide which has a significant financial and social burden to supporting families and disability support services in Australia.

Does Exercise Help Alzheimer

Who’s at Risk of Developing Alzheimer’s Disease

Everyone! However, there are multiple modifiable and non-modifiable risk factors that increase the likelihood of developing all types of dementia.

Non-modifiable risk factors include increase in age, family history and genetic predisposition. However, there are several modifiable risk factors which include physical activity, cerebrovascular health, cardiometabolic health, depression and midlife obesity.

Exercise intervention is the solution to many primary and secondary health factors that increase the risk of developing dementia, with all modifiable risk factors combined having the potential of reducing risk of development later in life by up to 40% and can be avoided with as small as a 10-25% reduction in risk.

What Effects Does Aerobic Exercise Have

Long -term consistent aerobic exercise has substantial benefits for people who are at risk and for people living with Alzheimer’s disease. Benefits include improvements in cardiometabolic health, improvements in emotional wellbeing, maintenance of healthy body composition, reduce systemic inflammation and improvements in memory.

Specific to patient with Alzheimer’s disease a reduction in cerebral blood flow is associated with cognitive impairment, aerobic exercise is associated with increase in cerebral blood flow over periods of consistent training.

Aerobic Exercise Prescription:

  • Training 3x per week
  • Duration of 30minutes or more per session
  • Intensity of 60% of heart rate max or more
  • Continuous aerobic style activity (e.g. Cycling, swimming, water aerobics)
  • High intensity interval training is another tool that may have many benefits for people living with Alzheimer’s disease but there are limited studies that provide clear evidence

Does Resistance Training Help

Definitely! Specifically heavy multi-joint resistance exercises. Heavy resistance exercise is associated with delaying the progression of cognitive impairment, maintaining independence, reducing mood disturbances and preventing secondary diseases.

The hormone Insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1) is known to have several key functions in the musculoskeletal and central nervous system. In particular, IGF-1 has a role in the survival of newly generated neurons and the promotion of muscle growth and function maintaining cognition and motor function for people living with Alzheimer’s disease.

Also, endorphins are released as an acute effect from a bout of resistance training which has been associated with stabilising mood disturbances in people living with Alzheimer’s disease.

Resistance Exercise Prescription:

  • 2-3 training sessions per week
  • Load between 3-12 repetitions max
  • Volume should be 3-4 sets per exercise
  • Select 4-6 Multi-joint exercises per session (e.g. Leg press, deadlifting, chest, Lat pull down)
  • Intensity should be 1-2 repetitions before failure each set
  • Whole body strength training
  • Single joint exercises do not provide enough stimulus for IGF-1 release but can benefit muscular strength and function as addition to the prescription above

What’s Next

Let’s get people moving! The key is to promote physical activity, whether it be anything the person likes and needs to promote healthy ageing and manage the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease.

Healthy behaviour change is a must and interventions will need to be for a minimum of 12 weeks to see clinically significant changes. So tailored programs with an exercise physiologist can give whole families the assurance they need that they’re loved ones are receiving best treatment, reduce their social burden and enhance their quality of life.

Exercise is medicine.

Want To Know More?

This article was written by Precision Physio Exercise Physiologist Chris Antinanco, if you would like to know more, feel free to reach out to him or book an appointment with any Precision Physio Exercise Physiologist.

How Do I Book An Appointment?

We’re taking the health of our clients, members and staff very seriously and our preference would be for you to call to book an appointment so that we can make sure to explain our approach to keeping you safe. You can call any of these numbers to schedule a session:

Online Consultations

Evolving with the current environment, we are also now offering online appointments, meaning that we can support anyone who is unable to leave their home. Sessions are done via our state of the art Telehealth system and as long as you have a laptop or tablet with an inbuilt camera, or a phone with camera, we can help!

To learn more about online consultations, please call us on any of the numbers listed above.

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