Three studies from America, Denmark and Canada presented simultaneously at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference (AAIC), indicate that physical exercise may help people live better with Alzheimer’s and vascular dementia.

The Alzheimer’s Association International Conference, held on July 23 in Washington DC, is the biggest global conference for specialists dealing with Alzheimer’s and other dementia related illnesses.

At the conference, three teams of researchers simultaneously presented their studies on closing day. All three studies focused on examining the influence of physical activity on such illnesses.

The results showed that the benefits are clear. Not only can the risk of getting Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia be reduced, but physical activity could in fact be an efficient form of treatment.

The first study was conducted by Dr Steen Hasselbalch and his colleagues from the Danish Dementia Research Centre at the Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences, University of Copenhagen. The scientists studied 200 patients between the ages of 50 and 90 who were afflicted by Alzheimer’s. They were split into two groups. The first was assigned a physical activity programme, defined as 60-minute exercise sessions 3 times per week for 16 weeks. The other group received only standard treatment without any sport.

The researchers reported that “people who participated in the exercise programme had far fewer neuropsychiatric symptoms (such as anxiety, irritability, and depression).”

workout dementia

Exercising can help with managing Alzheimer’s symptoms. Photo: Filepic

The second study presented was conducted by researchers from Wake Forest School of Medicine in Winston Salem, NC. Their goal was to find out if sport could have an influence on the decrease, in the brain, of the tau protein responsible for the acceleration of Alzheimer’s. To accomplish this, they randomly divided 65 adults aged 55 to 89 affected with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) in either one group assigned to an aerobics training programme or one with only stretching exercises performed four times per week.

After six months, the scientists observed a statistically significant difference in the tau protein between the two groups.

The last study, conducted by Professor Teresa Liu-Ambrose from the University of British Columbia, Canada and researcher at the Djavad Mowafaghian Centre for Brain Health, examined the benefits of physical activity for patients suffering from cognitive decline due to ministrokes – known as vascular cognitive impairment (VCI) – which are the second leading cause for dementia among the elderly.

Seventy-one patients aged 56 to 96 with confirmed cases of mild VCI were split into two groups. The first partook in a supervised aerobics programme for 60 minutes three times per week, while the others underwent traditional treatment.

Once again, the researchers observed that of the 62 participants who completed the full study, the patients who followed the physical programme improved their cognitive function, including memory and selective attention, compared to the people receiving usual care. – AFP Relaxnews