A recent study of 716 people, with an average age of 82, has revealed that daily exercise may reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s Disease significantly.

Study participants wore wrist monitors, called actigraphs, for ten days straight. The devices kept track of all activity in 15-second segments. The volunteers were also given annual memory and thinking tests over the course of four years. 71 of the participants developed Alzheimer’s throughout the trial.

The data showed that people who are less physically active are doubly likely to develop Alzheimer’s, regardless of age. Intensity levels of the exercise have an impact as well; seniors who performed intense workouts were three times less likely to develop the disease. The study monitored daily activity as opposed to long-term habits, which implied that a change in lifestyle even at an older age may help protect a person from the condition.

According to Dr. Aron Buchman of the Rush Alzheimer’s Disease Center, the actigraphs could not differentiate between activities such as a basketball game or a card game. If the movement was recorded for over thirty minutes, he explained, it suggests a more intense exercise.

“The important thing is, since we measured all types of activity, it allowed an interesting perspective that even among older people who may not be able to participate in a formal exercise program, a more active lifestyle- even if it’s just washing the dishes or walking around inside- is better than you sitting,” he said. “Increasing activity level by 10 to 15 percent could be good as well,” he added.

“People who read more, go to church, play Bingo or do crossword puzzles, rather than just sit around and vegetate, will derive some benefit,” Buchman said. “The sum total of all types of activities is not only beneficial for older people, but could also be beneficial for the health care system if they can tailor programs to address the issue of older people who have health issues and may not be able to participate in a formal health care program.”

 

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