Physical activity can reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease by 33%

A recent study finds additional evidence that physical activity may reduce the risk of dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease. As dementia rates increase with an aging population, scientists are trying to understand what factors increase the risk of developing or preventing these conditions. There is already evidence that physical fitness may help reduce the risk of dementia. A recent study concludes that cardiorespiratory fitness is, indeed, linked to the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease and related disorders (ADD) in old age.

Taking advantage of the wide range of people receiving care in the Veterans Health Administration (VHA), first author Dr. Edward Zamrini and his colleagues studied 649,605 military veterans between the ages of 30 and 95. These people had not been diagnosed with ADHD and had performed an exercise treadmill test (ETT) as part of their routine care. The scientists analyzed the records of these people to establish a diagnosis of ADHD over an average period of 8.8 years. Dr. Zamrini, lead author, Professor Qing Zeng-Teitler, and their colleagues compared ETT results and the incidence of ADAD development in these individuals.

Metabolic equivalence

Exercise tolerance testing quantifies fitness levels using a measurement standard called MET, or task metabolic equivalence. In this study, the authors divided participants into five groups based on the METs they could achieve, from lowest to highest fitness: on average, about 3.8 to 11.7 METs. For comparison, 1 MET is equivalent to sitting quietly, yoga requires 3.2 METs, and hiking at 6 km per hour would require 11.6 METs.

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Scientists have found that people in poor physical condition have the highest risk of suffering from ADHD. Conversely, people in excellent physical shape were the least likely to develop ADHD.

Dr. Zamrini, director of neurology at Irvine Clinical Research, assistant professor of clinical research and leadership at George Washington University and assistant professor of neurology at the University of Utah, explained: This study found an association strong and gradual inverse between cardiorespiratory fitness and reduced risk of Alzheimer’s disease. This means that the fitter a person is, the less likely they are to develop Alzheimer’s disease later on.

Specifically, the researchers found that, compared to the least fit participants, the fittest were 33% less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease. Similarly, the second fittest group was 26% less likely to develop the disease, the third fittest group was 20% less likely, and the fourth fittest group was 13% less likely.

The healthier we are, the less risk we have

Two main factors influence cardiorespiratory fitness: genetics and exercise. We can’t change our genetics, but we can improve our cardiorespiratory fitness through a sensible exercise program. This study also demonstrates that it is not necessary to become a marathoner to reduce the risks. Even small increases in cardiorespiratory fitness can help!

The correlation between increased physical fitness and reduced risk of dementia is very clear. It’s a very compelling combination. Additionally, there are many other studies that have looked prospectively to affirm this link between physical fitness and dementia risk and confirm that regular and recommended exercise can reduce a person’s risk of developing dementia. . So studies like the global FINGER study, conducted in Finland, where populations are prospectively studied over time, there is simply growing evidence that if you want to reduce your risk of dementia and maintain a healthy brain, you should exercise regularly and engage in other activities to improve your cardiorespiratory fitness.

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Top tips for preventing Alzheimer’s disease

A good piece of advice for anyone worried about their risk of Alzheimer’s disease is this: live as healthy a lifestyle as possible. There are several lifestyle measures considered beneficial. These are exercise, diet, adequate sleep, and staying mentally active and socially engaged. The strongest evidence relates to exercise.

Modifiable risk factors that are important in Alzheimer’s disease. 12 modifiable risk factors are linked to 40% of dementia cases worldwide.

The main ones are:

– stay in good physical shape
– a healthy and balanced diet, rich in fruits and vegetables
– get a good night’s sleep
– meaningful relationships
– maintain a strong sense of social belonging
– avoid excessive alcohol
– no smoking
– having the opportunity to restore and reduce stress through meditation and other forms of self-care.

This is an important epidemiological study. Such studies do not prove cause and effect. However, the strength of epidemiological studies lies in the number of subjects studied. The large number of subjects in this study and the adjustments made for comorbidities reinforce these conclusions.


This study will be presented at the 74th Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Neurology in Seattle.


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