The Exercise That Could Help Reduce Your Dementia Risk

More than six million people in the United States live with Alzheimer's disease — a neurodegenerative disease that accounts for 60 to 80% of dementia cases (via Alzheimer's Association). There is currently no known cure for Alzheimer's, but one study has found that aerobic exercise like treadmill training could play a role in slowing or preventing the disease's onset.

A study recently published in the Frontiers of Endocrinology studied brain biomarkers of memory and learning, finding evidence supporting the belief that "aerobic exercise training increases gray and white matter volume, enhances blood flow, and improves memory function." This means that lifestyle choices like exercise could have an effect on dementia and Alzheimer's disease.

Over the course of six months, a research team studied blood samples for 23 asymptomatic adults with a mean age of 65 years old, all of whom had familial and genetic risk for Alzheimer's disease (via Florida Atlantic University). Study participants were divided in two groups — one that completed their usual physical activity, and a second that had enhanced physical activity. The enhanced group had supervised treadmill training three times a week for six months.

How research findings link exercise to brain function

Researchers in the study tracked the biomarker myokine Cathepsin B (CTSB), and found that the CTSB plasma level had increased in the enhanced physical activity group following the 26-week aerobic exercise program. This finding is important, as a change in CTSB has a positive connection with cognitive function, according to researchers.

"The positive association between CTSB and cognition, and the substantial modulation of lipid metabolites implicated in dementia, support the beneficial effects of exercise training on brain function and brain health in asymptomatic individuals at risk for Alzheimer's disease," Henriette van Praag, associate professor of biomedical science at Florida Atlantic University's Schmidt College of Medicine, said in a news release.

Researchers added that measuring exercise biomarkers linked with brain function can be a cost-effective, quick way to evaluate an exercise-based Alzheimer's intervention. In turn, this could help provide information on the disease's progression and guide the development of other "novel therapeutic targets."

Now this doesn't mean you need to overhaul your health with a rigorous exercise plan. Other studies have found that simply walking three times a week can reduce your risk of dementia (via Eating Well).