Every March, Brain Awareness Week (13-19 March) unites the efforts of partner organisations worldwide in a celebration of the brain.
This global campaign increases public awareness of the progress and benefits of brain research. It is an opportunity to inform people about the progress in the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of disorders of the brain, such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, stroke, schizophrenia and depression.
In particular, over recent years research has been building which demonstrates the link between exercise and the prevention and treatment of Alzheimer’s disease. Dr Ronald Petersen, Director of the Alzheimer’s Research Centre at the US Mayo Clinic, has stated that, “Regular physical exercise is probably the best means we have of preventing Alzheimer’s disease today, better than medications, better than intellectual activity, better than supplements and diet”.
Research has found that 13% of Alzheimer’s disease cases worldwide were found to be attributable to physical inactivity. Read on to see how exercise affects the brain.
The role of exercise in prevention and treatment
Exercise is important for brain health. Primary benefits include:
- Increased brain volume
- Increased cognitive function
- Increased levels of the testosterone hormone, which has been shown to have a protective effect on brain cells
Exercise interventions over 6-12 month periods have shown that exercise increases blood flow to the brain which can stimulate the growth of brain cells and connections between them. Exercise has also been shown to be important in preventing muscle wastage, maintaining bone health, improving physical function and mental health within Alzheimer’s disease patients. Regular exercise has also been proven to improve memory and thinking skills.
Want more information?
Download the EIM Alzheimer’s disease factsheet, contact your local accredited exercise physiologist, or visit the Alzheimer’s Australia website for links to resources and tools for health professionals.
Cass, S. (2017). Alzheimer’s disease and exercise: A literature review. Current Sports Medicine Reports. Vol 16(1) Doi: 10.1249/JSR.0000000000000332
Exercise Is Medicine Australia (2014). Alzheimer’s disease factsheet. Retrieved from http://exerciseismedicine.com.au/public/factsheets/
Santos-Lozano, A. et al. (2016). Physical activity and Alzheimer disease: A protective association. Mayo Clinic Proceedings. Vol 91(8) Doi: 10.1016/j.mayocp.2016.04.024