Being that September is recognized as World Alzheimer's Month and the 21st is Alzheimer's Action Day, I thought it only appropriate to discuss how exercise fits into the prevention and treatment of this degenerative brain disorder that currently affects about 70,000 of Connecticut residents.
While there is no cure at the present time, a growing body of evidence suggests that physical exercise is one of the most effective ways to prevent this invasive disease, which impairs memory and thinking skills. According to the Alzheimer's Research & Prevention Foundation (ARPF), over five million Americans have been diagnosed with Alzheimer's so far and, because the population of the U.S. is aging, the number of cases will continue to rise.
Fortunately, regular physical fitness can forestall the onset of this incurable condition. In fact, the data has shown that exercise reduces the risk of developing Alzheimer's disease by as much as 50 percent.
Not only that, but regular exercise can also slow down the progression of this disease in people who have already started to develop cognitive problems.
How does physical activity help prevent Alzheimer's?
It increases oxygen-rich blood flow to the brain, encouraging the formation of new brain cells. This process not only reduces the risk of Alzheimer's, but also of other mental conditions that impact our cognitive abilities, such as dementia.
Exercising to prevent or slow down the progression of Alzheimer's should include the following:
Cardio: Recent research from the Mayo Clinic shows that any exercise that gets the heart pumping and blood flowing to the brain may lower the risk of Alzheimer's and slow down the deterioration caused by this disease.
Resistance: You may not think of strength training as "brain exercise," but a workout that increases overall muscle mass also helps maintain your brain health, especially when done in conjunction with cardio training.
Balance: There is some evidence suggesting that head injuries from falls can contribute to the onset of Alzheimer's. To decrease the risk of falling, improve your stability with balance and coordination exercises.
Anyone who reads my posts will recognize that this same exercise prescription is quite similar to numerous other health benefits I have covered in the past. The combination of regular cardiovascular AND resistance training will also help protect you from heart disease, diabetes, and certain forms of cancer. Oh...and they are also imperative in any body transformation/weight loss program.
So if you are not in the habit of working out, now is a great time to get a head start - no pun intended.