Leo Sher, M.D.
Available evidence suggests that higher levels of cardiorespiratory fitness and physical activity are associated with larger brain volume, fewer brain atrophy, slower dementia progression and decreased risk of cognitive impairment (1). Increased cardiorespiratory fitness also reduces the harmful influences of cerebral amyloid on cognition.
A research group from the University of Kansas examined the effects of 150 minutes per week of aerobic exercise vs. non-aerobic stretching and toning control intervention in persons with early Alzheimer’s disease (1). Participants were recruited as a convenience sample of volunteers. Inclusion criteria included mild cognitive impairment or dementia with etiologic diagnosis of probable Alzheimer’s disease.
The researchers observed that aerobic exercise in early Alzheimer’s disease was associated with improvements in functional ability. They also found evidence that enhancements in cardiorespiratory fitness were connected to benefits in memory performance and brain volume change.
1. Morris JK, Vidoni ED, Johnson DK, Van Sciver A, Mahnken JD, Honea RA, Wilkins HM, Brooks WM, Billinger SA, Swerdlow RH, Burns JM. Aerobic exercise for Alzheimer’s disease: A randomized controlled pilot trial. PLoS One. 2017 Feb 10;12(2):e0170547. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0170547. eCollection 2017.