Data Show Just How Much Exercise Can Lower Alzheimer’s Risk

No matter how you spin it, the news that exercise may help prevent and treat Disease X doesn’t really qualify as a surprise. That’s the default assumption these days. But when Disease X is Alzheimer’s, a progressive and irreversible degenerative brain condition with few effective treatment options, the finding is worth a closer look. Drawing on data from more than 150,000 participants in the National Runners’ and Walkers’ Health Studies over a 17-year period, a new U.S. study shows that regular exercise lowers the risk of dying from Alzheimer’s by as much as 40 percent — an indication that the disease’s progression is not unchangeable. “Currently, doctors do not screen for Alzheimer’s disease susceptibility because of the belief that nothing can be done for those at risk,” says Dr. Paul Williams, a staff scientist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California and the author of the study. “However, our results add to the growing body of scientific evidence suggesting that people can be proactive in lowering Alzheimer’s disease risk.” Williams began enrolling subjects in his study in 1991, and has used the massive database of health records to publish dozens of papers on the link between exercise levels and health conditions ranging from brain cancer and heart disease to cataracts and gout. The average age in the study was 45 at baseline; the subjects were all recreational walkers or runners, with roughly equal numbers of men and women. While health authorities recommend getting at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week, Williams found the greatest benefits — a 40 percent reduction in mortality — in those who did twice that much exercise, equivalent to running about 25 kilometers a week.

Source/more: Toronto Globe and Mail

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