This blog was written by Sean Holbrook. Meet our blogging fitness specialists at the NIFS website.
It’s probably just my desire as a wellness center manager at a Continuing Care Retirement Community for the National Institute for Fitness and Sport to recommend exercise for most questions I get. But when I speak with residents, one of their major concerns as they age is losing their cognitive function, which is most commonly associated with the development of Alzheimer's disease. A growing body of research is emerging to support my answer that exercise is one of the best medicines, especially in regard to exercise's ability to prevent Alzheimer's.
Alzheimer's disease continues to grow in prevalence worldwide, expected to affect 1 out of 85 individuals over 65 by 2050. With the cause of Alzheimer's still unknown, much of the current research is being focused on lifestyle and behavioral habits that decrease the risk of developing it.
So how much does exercise help in the prevention of Alzheimer's disease? Deborah Barnes, a mental health researcher at the San Francisco VA Medical Center (SFVAMC), analyzed data from studies around the world involving hundreds of thousands of participants about modifiable lifestyle habits that can prevent Alzheimer's disease. Barnes found that the biggest modifiable risk factor in the United States was physical activity. She stated that the most exciting thing about the study was that some very simple lifestyle changes, such as increasing physical activity, could prevent more than half of the Alzheimer's cases.
Other modifiable risk factors that were identified by the study included smoking, hypertension, obesity, and diabetes, most of which can also be modified by increased physical activity.
So what steps can you start to take to increase your physical activity?