Exercise reduces Alzheimer’s disease and MCI neurodegeneration

alzheimer'sA new study, published in the journal of the International Neuropsychological Society on Nov. 19th 2015, has revealed that exercise reduces brain shrinkage and neurodegeneration associated with Alzheimer’s disease.

The outer layer of the brain atrophies with Alzheimer’s disease. The research participants consisted of physically inactive participants, aged 61-88, who exercised for four times a week over a twelve week period by walking on a treadmill.The atrophy of the brain’s cortical layer is a marker of Alzheimer’s disease progression and correlates with symptoms including cognitive impairment.

“Exercise may help to reverse neurodegeneration and the trend of brain shrinkage that we see in those with MCI and Alzheimer’s,” said Dr. J. Carson Smith, associate professor of kinesiology and senior author of the study, published in the Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society on Nov. 19, 2015. “Many people think it is too late to intervene with exercise once a person shows symptoms of memory loss, but our data suggest that exercise may have a benefit in this early stage of cognitive decline.”

The study results showed a greater improvement compared to healthy groups in the left insula and superior temporal gyrus; the two brain regions that accelerate neurodegeneration in Alzheimer’s disease.

Other research published by Dr. Smith has also shown that moderate intensity physical activity, such as walking for 30 minutes 3-4 days per week, may protect brain health by staving off shrinkage of the hippocampus in older adults.


Katherine Reiter, Kristy A. Nielson, Theresa J. Smith, Lauren R. Weiss, Alfonso J. Alfini, J. Carson Smith. Improved Cardiorespiratory Fitness Is Associated with Increased Cortical Thickness in Mild Cognitive Impairment. Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society, 2015; 21 (10): 757 DOI: 10.1017/S135561771500079

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