Exercise as it relates to Disease/Alzheimer's Disease and Exercise

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Alzheimer's Disease and Exercise

What is Alzheimer's Disease[edit]

Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is the most common form of dementia that accompanies the aging process and involves oxidative damage to the brain.[1][2] This degenerative brain disease results in loss of ability to:

  • Cope with every day activities,
  • Mental deterioration,
  • Disorientation,
  • Memory disturbances and
  • Confusion.
Non-Modifiable Risks Modifiable Risks
  • Age
  • Genes
  • Family History - individuals have 3.5 times greater

risk of developing AD if another family member has AD.

Prevention for Alzheimer's Disease[edit]

Physical Activity/Exercise and Diet

Regular exercise through mid-life reduces risk of AD by 60%.[3] Vascular diseases such as hypertension, coronary heart disease, diabetes and strokes have been found to have an association with AD. Regular exercise has been shown to decrease the risk of vascular diseases and therefore can help delay the symptoms of AD by.[4][5]

  • Directly counteracting vascular oxidative stress seen in AD patients and
  • Indirectly by reducing the vascular burden – a critical factor for AD onset.

Life-style changes such as completing regular exercise and eating a balanced diet throughout a person’s mid-life can help delay the onset of cognitive decline and slow down AD progression.[5][6]

Exercise Prescription

There is no physical activity/exercise specifically for AD. General physical activity guidelines would be appropriate to reduce vascular risks associated with AD. Additional research suggests that the risk of cognitive decline decreased twofold in patients who completed greater than 1 hour of exercise[6] daily at a high to moderate intensity level is associated with a decrease risk of AD.[7]

Want to Help Someone with Alzheimer’s Disease?[edit]

Throughout the course of AD patients can develop malnutrition, increased rate of falls, fractures, muscle loss, behavioural disturbances and depression. This can result in a decreased quality of life, independence and, high rate hospitalisation, disability and death.[1][2][6][8]

Benefits of Physical Activity/Exercise

Regular exercise in AD patients can significantly improve their ability to complete every day activities such as cleaning, cooking, hanging washing out (etc). To improve quality of life, ability to complete every day activities, decrease the risk of diseases (i.e. hypertension, diabetes) an AD exercise program should include:[1]

  • Aerobic/endurance activities,
  • Flexibility,
  • Neuromuscular coordination/balance and
  • Strength of the major muscle groups.

Research has suggested moderate exercise program of one hour conducted twice a week significantly slows the progressive deterioration by up to a 1/3.[9]

Further Information[edit]

Alzheimer's Australia - http://www.fightdementia.org.au/

Cure Alzheimer's Fund - http://curealz.org/roadmap

National Dementia Helpline - 1800 100 500

For further information about exercise programs and diets suited to you please contact your local General Practitioner.


  1. a b c Santana-Sosa, E et al. (2008) Exercise Training is Beneficial for Alzheimer's Patients, Int J Sports Med; 29:845-850.
  2. a b Radak, Z et al. (2010) Exercise Plays a Preventative Role Against Alzheimer's Disease. Journal of Alzheimer's Disease; 20: 777-783.
  3. Kivipelto, M. and Solomon, A. (2007) Alzheimer's Disease - The Ways of Prevention. The Journal of Nutrition, Health and Aging; 12: 89S-94S.
  4. Lange-Asschenfeldt, C. and Kojda G. (2008) Alzheimer's disease, cerebrovascular dysfunction and the benefits of exercise: From vessels to neurons. Experimental Gerontology; 43: 499-504.
  5. a b Pope, SK et al. (2003) Will A Healthy Lifestyle Help Prevent Alzheimer's Disease. Annual Review of Public Health; 24: 111-132
  6. a b c Rolland, Y et al. (2008). Physical activity and Alzheimer’s disease: From prevention to therapeutic perspectives. Journal of American Medical Directors Association, 9, 390-405.
  7. Scarmeas, N and Stern, Y (2004). Cognitive reserve: Implications for diagnosis and prevention of Alzheimer’s disease. Curr Neurol Neurosci Rep, 4(5), 374-380.
  8. Teri, L et al. (1998) Exercise and activity level in Alzheimer’s disease: A potential treatment focus. Journal of Rehabilitation Research and Development, 35(4), 411-419.
  9. Rolland, Y et al. (2007). Exercise program for nursing home residents with Alzheimer's disease: a 1-year randomized, controlled trial. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society ;55(2): 158-165.