Exercise May Reduce Risk of Alzheimer's
Moderate Walking, Resistance Training Both Help Brain Health, Experts Find
Resistance Training and Alzheimer's Risk: Study Details continued...
MCI boosts the risk of getting dementia, Liu-Ambrose says. "More than half will convert to a diagnosis of dementia within five years," she says.
Her goal was to see if resistance training or other exercise might stall that decline.
In her study, she assigned 86 women, aged 70 to 80, who had MCI to one of three groups:
- Twice-a-week resistance training for an hour each session.
- Twice-a-week aerobic training for an hour each session.
- Toning and balance training for an hour each session.
She tested them before and after on such mental skills as attention, working memory, and everyday problem solving.
For instance, she says, they would look at the word "blue" printed in yellow ink. They would be told to call out the ink color rather than read out the word.
In real life, this skill might translate to remembering you need to take a different route to a friend's house because you plan to stop at the dry cleaner, she says.
She tested associative memory, too, which can become a problem with age. If you have trouble with associative memory, for instance, you may remember someone told you about a great sale at your favorite store, she says. "But you can't remember who told you."
Compared with the balance and tone group, those who did resistance training improved their performance on the test of attention and other tests and on the associative memory test.
The aerobic group had improvement in balance and mobility and heart health measures.
Resistance training may be a good workout for those who already have cognitive decline, Liu-Ambrose says.
Exercise and Brain Health: Perspective
Mark Gluck, PhD, director of the Rutgers University Memory Disorders Project, reviewed the new research findings for WebMD.
"These important studies remind us that the pathway to successful aging and brain health lies not just in the hands of the pharmaceutical companies, but in our own two feet," he says.
Based on the new findings, which form of exercise would he recommend to help brain health?
"There is more support, so far, for the role of aerobic exercise in supporting brain function than there is for resistance training," he says. "Aerobic exercise also improves sleep and reduces stress, both of which are important for maintaining brain health and a sharp mind.''
These findings were presented at a medical conference. They should be considered preliminary, as they have not yet undergone the "peer review" process, in which outside experts scrutinize the data prior to publication in a medical journal.