According to a recent study of physical activity as an experimental treatment for dementia, frequent, brisk walks are beneficial for people with early-stage Alzheimer’s disease because walking bolsters physical abilities and slow memory loss.
The study aimed to investigate how and why exercise helps some people with dementia, but not others. There are 1.1 million Canadians who are directly or indirectly affected by dementia. Globally, the disease affects more than 35 million people, a number that is expected to double within 20 years. There are currently no reliable treatments for the disease.
Past studies which focused on how exercise can prevent Alzheimer’s disease have shown the following:
- There is a strong correlation between regular exercise and improved memories in healthy elderly people.
- Physical active older people are less likely than those who are sedentary to develop mild cognitive impairment (a common precursor to Alzheimer’s disease).
- When compared to sedentary people of the same age, physically fit older people have more volume in their brain’s hippocampus, the portion of the brain most intimately linked to memory function.
For the current study, researchers from the University of Kansas decided to work with people who had been given a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease. Because the disease can affect coordination as it progresses, the study initially looked at men and women with early stage Alzheimer. Study participants had to be living at home and be able to safely walk by themselves or perform other types of light exercise.