- Resistance training can prevent or delay symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease, new research shows.
- One study found that hormone levels associated with Alzheimer’s risk were lower in those who did resistance training than in those who did not.
- An expert in neurodegenerative diseases explains the results.
The benefits of physical activity are endless – exercise can be good for your heart, muscles and bones. Now, research shows that a specific type of training could delay or even prevent the development, of Alzheimer’s disease.
A study published in Frontiers in Neuroscience examined how regular physical exercise, such as resistance training, can affect levels of hormones that increase the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. The goal was to see if resistance training and similar exercises could prevent or at least delay the onset of symptoms and provide a simple and an affordable therapy for patients with Alzheimer’s disease.
The researchers conducted this experiment by observing mice with a genetic mutation responsible for the accumulation of beta-amyloid plaques, a kind of toxic protein, in the brain. This buildup damages brain cells and is a key marker for Alzheimer’s disease.
The mice were trained to climb a steeply inclined ladder while loads were attached to their tails corresponding to 75%, 90% and 100% of their body weight. The experiment mimicked typical resistance training you might see humans performing in the gym. After a four-week training period, blood samples were taken to measure levels of corticosterone, the hormone in mice equivalent to cortisol in humans; for which increased levels in response to stress increase the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.
Levels of the hormone were normal in the exercise-trained mice, meaning their levels were equal to those found in the control group of mice without the genetic mutation. Analysis of their brain tissue also showed a decrease in the formation of beta-amyloid plaques.
“This confirms that physical activity can reverse the neuropathological alterations that cause the clinical symptoms of the disease,” said Henrique Correia Campos, first author of the paper, in a Press release.
The researchers also observed the mice’s behavior to assess their anxiety and found that resistance exercise reduced levels of restlessness and restlessness to levels similar to controls, said Deidiane Elisa Ribeiro, co-first author of the article and researcher at the IQ-USP neuroscience laboratory. , said in a Press release. Restlessness, restlessness and wandering are common early symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease.
Resistance exercises are proving to be increasingly effective as a strategy to prevent the onset of Alzheimer’s disease symptoms or to delay their onset in Alzheimer’s disease, said Beatriz Monteiro Longo, the latest author of the article and professor of neurophysiology at UNIFESP. “The main possible reason for this effectiveness is the anti-inflammatory action of resistance exercises.”
What is resistance training and how does it impact brain health?
Resistance training is strength trainingresulting in an increase in muscle mass, says Dale Bredesen, MD, neuroscientist and specialist in neurodegenerative diseases. “It improves insulin sensitivity, which is important for reducing the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. It also prevents sarcopenia (muscle loss) which is often associated with aging.
Additionally, resistance training can improve sleep, improve muscle signals to the brain, reduce inflammation and help improve heart fitness, he adds.
How can resistance training reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s or delay the onset of the disease?
Although this study was in mice, not humans, it is consistent with what has been noted in humans, says Dr. Bredesen. “Through the multiple mechanisms listed above, it reduces the risk of cognitive decline.” Alzheimer’s disease is primarily driven by two factors: reduced energy (such as blood flow and oxygenation and increased inflammation, he explains. “Strength training helps address both factors.”
The bottom line
Although this study did not look directly at humans, this research supports the idea that strength training can reduce the risk of cognitive decline. Dr. Bredesen says this is further proof that Alzheimer’s disease is not totally inevitable.
Before you start strength training, consult a doctor before hitting the gym to make sure it’s right for you.
Magdalene, Preventionassociate editor of , has a history with health writing from her experience as an editorial assistant at WebMD and her personal research at university. She graduated from the University of Michigan with a degree in biopsychology, cognition, and neuroscience — and she helps strategize for success across Preventionsocial media platforms.