Walk Away from MCI, Alzheimer’s: Study links Exercise to Improvements in Brain Cortex

In a revolutionary new study, doctors have discovered that moderate exercise in seniors could be the perfect preventative for developing Alzheimer’s, and may actually help to counter the effects of Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI, or the early stages of Alzheimer’s).

Study shows Moderate Intenstiy Exercise can Prevent or Reverse MCI AlzheimersOlder adults who participated in the moderate intensity exercise program saw an increase in the thickness of their brain’s outer layer, the cortex. Atrophy, or thinning of the cortex, has been linked to the progression of MCI and Alzheimer’s. Amazingly, the research showed that both healthy seniors, as well as those already exhibiting signs of MCI, both benefited from the program.

The study, which “examined changes in cortical thickness from before to after an exercise intervention in mild cognitive impairment (MCI) and healthy elders,” was conducted by a team of dedicated researchers at University of Maryland School of Public Health. It was published in the Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society on November 19, 2015 by senior author, Dr. J. Carson Smith, an associate professor of kinesiology at UMD.

According to Dr. Smith, what the team discovered was that, “Exercise may help to reverse neurodegeneration and the trend of brain shrinkage that we see in those with MCI and Alzheimer’s. Many people think it is too late to intervene with exercise once a person shows symptoms of memory loss,” wrote Dr. Smith, “but our data suggest that exercise may have a benefit in this early stage of cognitive decline.”

If their theory is true, this would be a revolutionary breakthrough in modern medicine. The ability to slow, halt or reverse the effects of MCI and possibly even Alzheimer’s is extraordinary, and according to their study, all it takes is moderate intensity exercise to achieve.

Exercise and Neural Cognition

The program involved healthy adults, as well as those showing signs of MCI, aged 61-88 who were previously inactive in terms of fitness. For twelve weeks, they spent 4 days a week walking for 30 minutes on a treadmill. All subjects showed an average of 8.49% cardiorespiratory improvement as a result of the training.

The study revealed that subjects who had the most cardiorespiratory improvement also had the greatest level of thickening in the cortical layer of the brain, including both healthy participants and those diagnosed with MCI. However, “MCI participants exhibited stronger positive correlations compared to healthy elders in the left insula and superior temporal gyrus”, two areas that have been linked to accelerated neurodegeneration in Alzheimer’s patients.

In a previous publication, Dr. Smith noted that participants in the exercise intervention program also displayed improved neural efficiency during memory recall tests, which further supports the evidence that exercise and cognitive function go hand in hand.

More Studies on the Way

Dr. Smith has already set in motion plans for additional studies on the correlation between moderate intensity exercise and cognitive health. He wants to conduct a similar program with longer-term fitness training to find out if the associated thickening of the cortex continues to improve over time, and whether the effects are persistent over time.

The question that remains unanswered at this point is whether regular moderate exercise—walking 3-4 times a day for 30 minutes—has the power to delay or even reverse the effects of MCI and/or Alzheimer’s, allowing more elderly individuals to lead healthy, independent lives.

You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

Leave a Reply

Powered by WordPress and WordPress Themes, thanks to Live Jasmin