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Alzheimer's disease is a growing problem in the United States. Currently it is estimated that 5.4 million people currently have the disease and as the baby-boomer generation ages those numbers are expected to rise to around 16 million. With a daunting epidemic in the field of mental health, and no cure right around the corner, many people are looking to find ways to slow down the progression of this mental disease.
A new series of studies, just announced at the Alzheimer's Association International Conference, has shown that exercise and training is proving to be a positive way to slow the disease. Forms of exercise that were tested range from walking, to toning and stretching, to weight training. The study focused on those who have not been diagnosed with dementia or the Alzheimer's form. The results were measured by a brain function MRI and showed that the anterior hippocampus grew by 2% in individuals who performed physical activity, as opposed to those who worked on stretching and toning.
Each study focused on different aspects of brain function and cognitive ability, and all yielded positive results in different areas. The main take away was that any physical activity had a positive effect on the brain's function and some participants even showed an increased cognitive baseline, just from moving around.
The conference also presented a study regarding gait measurements as an early predictor for Alzheimer's. Falls are extremely common in the Alzheimer's population and a change in gait can increase the risk of falls. Gait will generally slow as cognitive problems increase in Alzheimer's and dementia patients. The recent study shows that a person's gait will most likely change and slow, prior to having any cognitive difficulties from the disease.
With all of this new information presented about how exercise is beneficial to slowing the progression of the Alzheimer's disease, it also proves how healthy it is to abandon sedentary lifestyles and how much we, as a society, need exercise. The daunting weight upon the healthcare system when we reach that 16 million diagnosed patients here in America could be alleviated, as could our country's obesity problem, by making time for even moderate exercise schedules. None of the participants were required to hit the gym on a regular basis, but 2-3 days of walking, aerobics, or weight training can have a momentous impact in allowing patients to live a normal life as long as possible.Sources: Health Day http://www.philly.com/philly/health/HealthDay666621_20120715_Exercise_Can_Shield_the_Aging_Brain__Studies_Show.html?cmpid=138896554 ABC Rtv6 http://www.theindychannel.com/health/31276802/detail.html Bloomberg Businessweek http://www.businessweek.com/news/2012-07-15/walking-resistance-training-may-improve-memory-in-study CBS News http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-504763_162-57472857-10391704/slowed-walking-speed-may-be-early-predictor-of-alzheimers-decline/