We saw a plea on Facebook today for prayers for a family whose father is suffering from early-onset Alzheimer’s Disease. This husband and father is in an institution, but is being asked to leave because of increasingly difficult behavior. These episodes are making it hard for the family to find another place for their loved one to stay, but they also make home care impossible.
Alzheimer’s Disease brings suffering for the patient and heartbreak for the patient’s family. There is no cure, and treatments can only help people cope with symptoms. Medications for the condition are being researched, but those that could reverse the condition rather than just helping limit symptoms are years from the marketplace. More importantly, they haven’t yet been shown to make much difference.
But new research suggests that reversing Alzheimer’s Disease may be possible with one simple lifestyle change: aerobic exercise.
The study followed Alzheimer’s patients for six months as they took 45 to 60 minute exercise classes four times a week. The subjects were tested at the end of the study not just for cognitive function, but also for chemical markers of Alzheimer’s in their blood. The group that had been exercising vigorously for six months showed improvement in all these factors, as well as in their physical health.
This is not the first time it has been suggested that physical exercise could be important for mental function, but it is one of the first studies producing such well documented data. The results of vigorous exercise were far better than any results that have been seen with medications.
Several studies have shown that early Alzheimer’s patients who take part in regular aerobic exercise show statistically significant improvements in cognitive function compared with control groups. A new clinical trial has also just been completed. The evidence in favor of aerobic exercise as a practical treatment for Alzheimer’s continues to mount.
One of the best things about this “new” treatment is that the side effects are all positive. Regular exercise makes all of us healthier and happier.