Exercise can possibly help fight Alzheimer’s from developing sooner
The health benefits of regular exercise are frequently touted for preventing or combating numerous conditions and illnesses. Regular workouts have long been known to be beneficial for the cardiovascular system since nearly any form of aerobic training utilizes this system extensively. One of the most common uses of regular exercise is fighting weight gain as well as just making you feel better overall with the release of endorphins that can be triggered by such activity. The list of conditions or diseases that getting and staying physically fit can prevent or help alleviate may now have a new addition.
New research is showing that exercise may also be an effective weapon against cognitive impairment in general and even against major forms of dementia such as Alzheimer’s disease. Engaging in regular exercise for six months has shown signs of reversing mild cognitive impairment. There are now additional medical research findings, however, about its efficacy in fighting off more serious mental impairment.
Indicators of Alzheimer’s
Medical researchers have discovered various physical indicators of the presence of Alzheimer’s over decades of research. Some of these include the presence in the brain of excess amounts of proteins such as amyloid and tau. Some research has even shown a correlation between gum disease and an increased risk of getting Alzheimer’s at some point in your life. Experiencing long-term stress in the form of psychological distress in middle age has also been shown to be a significant risk factor for getting dementia later in life.
Alzheimer’s Disease and Exercise
Now it appears that there’s a memory-boosting protein and hormone that is produced during exercise. It is known as irisin, and the levels of this hormone as well as its precursor, FNDC5, are significantly less in the brain and cerebrospinal fluid of Alzheimer’s sufferers.
Research had already established that brain cell signaling pathways are disrupted by various forms of dementia. These include hormone-related pathways, and it’s believed that irisin and FNDC5 help to keep these pathways functioning normally. Research on this topic has been done at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro in Brazil as well as the Taub Institute for Research on Alzheimer’s Disease and the Aging Brain at Columbia University in New York City.
The researchers utilized mouse models, and their work has shown that when they deliberately decrease irisin levels in the brain of mice or when they simply blocked irisin signaling in the mice, they displayed poor short-term memory. Conversely, when they increased irisin levels, they showed memory improvement, and they were better able to form new brain synapses.
Promising Approach to Help Avoid Alzheimer’s
While the researchers aren’t sure about the mechanisms by which irisin and FNDC5 influence memory function and synapse formation and strengthening, their work demonstrates yet another reason for all of us to incorporate regular exercise into our lives. No matter how busy you may be, setting aside the time for exercise a few days a week may have long-term protective effects for your mental state far in excess of how good it can make you feel in the moment. Not to mention, exercise is a great way to reduce stress, which is another major risk factor for dementia. While shedding those extra pounds and working your cardiovascular system, you’ll know you’re also helping to keep your cognitive function running smoothly further into your twilight years.