Physical activity has long been known to reduce the risk of a number of diseases; It can also offer you protection against Alzheimer disease, according to recent research published in JAMA Neurology.
Researchers examined over 182 older adults with an average age of 73 and outfitted them with waistband pedometers to track the number of steps they took each day.
In the beginning, the most typical number of steps taken per day was about 5,600.
The participants recorded their steps over a period of seven consecutive days. Since they were also involved in the Harvard Aging Brain Study, they had their cognition measured annually and brain volume assessed every three years, for nearly eight years.
The researchers wanted to see if more physical activity would lead to a slowing of beta-amyloid accumulation, a type of protein that builds up in the brain and disrupts communication signals between brain cells. Beta-amyloid is considered one of the biggest possible culprits in causing Alzheimer’s.
They found that greater physical activity over follow-up was associated with the slower beta-amyloid accumulation and lower volume loss.
The findings also showed that those who bumped up their activity by a mere 3,300 steps saw significant brain advantages.
Dr. Jasmeer Chhatwal, Assistant Professor at Harvard Medical School and co-author of the research said: “In terms of the mechanism of why exercise would have these effects isn’t known quite yet, but previous studies have tied the physical activity to a good circadian rhythm— and that improves sleep quality—crucial for clearing sticky brain proteins,”
It also examined vascular risk factors, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, smoking, and obesity.
“Doing both increased activity and lowering vascular risks could be a one-two punch when it comes to Alzheimer’s protection,” Chhatwal suggested.
The researchers noted that the study has its limitations, such as the tracking, which was only done for a week, and intensity, which wasn’t measured.
“This is a good starting point for looking at the strong connection between exercises and maintaining good brain health,” he said.