Many people know that exercise and physical activity provide a wide range of health benefits, however, in recent years science has paid special attention to its relation with our brain, in the prevention and treatment of neurocognitive diseases such as Alzheimer's disease.
Alzheimer's disease is the most common type of dementia and one of the most frequent neurodegenerative pathologies in the elderly. About 24 million people suffer from Alzheimer's disease in the world, and the number of new cases is increasing every year.
It is characterized by its irreversible and progressive clinical picture that presents functional, cognitive and behavioral loss, together with brain disorders such as amnesia, agnosia (visual disorder), apraxia (speech disorder) and aphasia (language disorder).
There are some risk factors associated with Alzheimer's disease, such as age, diabetes, genetics, diet, cardiovascular conditions such as hypertension, hearing loss and sedentary lifestyle. Taking this into account, we can understand that exercise and physical activity not only help to slow the progression of Alzheimer's disease, but can target the risk factors and decrease the likelihood of developing the disease.
Benefits of exercise in Alzheimer's disease
Improves cognitive function and memory
Aerobic exercise training protocols have shown improvements in reaction time, motor function and cognitive processing speed, indicating that exercise is effective in reversing or at least slowing age-related declines in motor performance and cognitive processing speed.
As well, endurance training has positive effects on cognitive impairment and executive functions.
In addition, physical activity can facilitate neurogenesis (birth of new neurons) and synaptogenesis (communication between neurons), which improve memory and cognitive functions.
In other words, it protects and maintains the viability of neurons, and is able to restore brain lesions in aging.
Helps with depression and mood
Many Alzheimer's patients suffer from depression, anxiety and stress. In this case, exercise is able to release chemicals such as endorphins that improve motivation and mood.
Exercise has been found to promote the growth of nerve cells in a region of our brain called the hippocampus and improve the connections between them, which helps alleviate depression.
Alleviates sleep disorders
Symptoms of Alzheimer also include changes or troubles with sleep schedule. Therefore, engaging in moderate to intense exercise can increase the quality of sleep for adults, reducing the time it takes to fall asleep and decreasing the amount of time they stay awake during the night. In addition, physical activity can help relieve daytime sleepiness by releasing endorphins.
How to exercise?
For Alzheimer patients, aerobic exercises are recommended, these include walking, jogging, dancing, tennis, or swimming, of moderate intensity for a minimum of 20 minutes, 3 days a week.
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