How can (almost) anyone get exercise (almost) anywhere? By the simple act of taking a walk.
As everyone knows, exercise has myriad health benefits, many of which are clearly beneficial for both the body and the mind. For one thing, getting regular exercise helps control weight, which in turn reduces the risk for diabetes. This is key, because emerging evidence suggests that having diabetes also increases your risk for Alzheimer’s disease (AD). Physical exercise also promotes good sleep, which is more important for healthy brain function than most people think. Furthermore, physical exercise also promotes blood flow to tissues, including the brain, which facilitates the delivery of oxygen as well as the removal of deleterious waste products.
In animal models of AD, regular exercise has been shown to directly reduce the accumulation of the neurotoxic protein beta-amyloid, which plays a direct role in the development of the disease . In others, memory function has been shown to improve independently of brain beta-amyloid levels , including by suppressing the death of neurons, which is a hallmark of the disease .
The exact mechanisms are still being worked out, but several studies suggest that physical exercise increases brain-derived nerve growth factor (BDNF), a hormone that promotes the health of neurons and helps stave of neurodegeneration [3,5]. More recent research has shown that exercise increases BDNF in humans, including patients with AD or an early form of memory loss known as mild cognitive impairment [6,7]. Other research has shown that exercise stimulates the production of enzymes—known as proteases—that breakdown beta-amyloid . The president of the AD Foundation, Dr. Leissring, is an expert in this area , and has shown that increasing the levels of these enzymes can completely prevent Alzheimer-type pathology in mice .
So if you want to take action to Prevent Alzheimer’s NOW!™, one of the simplest and most effective things you can do is to take a hike!
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- Adlard PA, Perreau VM, Pop V, Cotman CW. Voluntary exercise decreases amyloid load in a transgenic model of Alzheimer’s disease. J Neurosci. 2005 Apr 27;25(17):4217-21. Link
- Maesako M, Uemura K, Kubota M, Kuzuya A, Sasaki K, Hayashida N, Asada-Utsugi M, Watanabe K, Uemura M, Kihara T, Takahashi R, Shimohama S, Kinoshita A. Exercise is more effective than diet control in preventing high fat diet-induced β-amyloid deposition and memory deficit in amyloid precursor protein transgenic mice. J Biol Chem. 2012 Jun 29;287(27):23024-33. Link
- Dao AT, Zagaar MA, Levine AT, Salim S, Eriksen JL, Alkadhi KA. Treadmill exercise prevents learning and memory impairment in Alzheimer’s disease-like pathology. Curr Alzheimer Res. 2013 Jun;10(5):507-15. Link
- Um HS, Kang EB, Koo JH, Kim HT, Jin-Lee, Kim EJ, Yang CH, An GY, Cho IH, Cho JY. Treadmill exercise represses neuronal cell death in an aged transgenic mouse model of Alzheimer’s disease. Neurosci Res. 2011 Feb;69(2):161-73. Link
- Intlekofer KA, Cotman CW. Exercise counteracts declining hippocampal function in aging and Alzheimer’s disease. Neurobiol Dis. 2013 Sep;57:47-55. Link
- Coelho FG, Vital TM, Stein AM, Arantes FJ, Rueda AV, Camarini R, Teodorov E, Santos-Galduróz RF. Acute aerobic exercise increases brain-derived neurotrophic factor levels in elderly with Alzheimer’s disease. J Alzheimers Dis. 2014;39(2):401-8. Link
- Nascimento CM, Pereira JR, de Andrade LP, Garuffi M, Talib LL, Forlenza OV, Cancela JM, Cominetti MR, Stella F. Physical exercise in MCI elderly promotes reduction of pro-inflammatory cytokines and improvements on cognition and BDNF peripheral levels. Curr Alzheimer Res. 2014;11(8):799-805. Link
- Lazarov O, Robinson J, Tang YP, Hairston IS, Korade-Mirnics Z, Lee VM, Hersh LB, Sapolsky RM, Mirnics K, Sisodia SS. Environmental enrichment reduces Abeta levels and amyloid deposition in transgenic mice. Cell. 2005 Mar 11;120(5):701-13. Link
- Leissring MA. The AßCs of Aß-cleaving proteases. J Biol Chem. 2008 Oct 31;283(44):29645-9. Link
- Leissring MA, Farris W, Chang AY, Walsh DM, Wu X, Sun X, Frosch MP, Selkoe DJ. Enhanced proteolysis of beta-amyloid in APP transgenic mice prevents plaque formation, secondary pathology, and premature death. Neuron. 2003 Dec 18;40(6):1087-93. Link