Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias affect about 5.8 million Americans today, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. While there is no cure, there are lifestyle changes you could make today that would increase your chances of avoiding this disease or at least minimizing the symptoms. These include limiting alcohol, eating a well-balanced healthy diet, staying hydrated, reducing stress, and quitting smoking. Regular exercise is also a good idea. But what kind of exercise is best?
Recent research, conducted on mice by Brazilian researchers affiliated with the Federal University of São Paulo and the University of São Paulo, suggests that strength (or resistance training) can play a pivotal role in preventing or delaying the onset of Alzheimer’s disease. Keep reading to discover three ways lifting weights or doing bodyweight exercises can help protect you from Alzheimer’s and related dementias.
1. Reduces Harmful Plaque Buildup in the Brain
One of the hallmark features of Alzheimer’s is the accumulation of beta-amyloid plaques, which are toxic proteins, in the brain. The study involved mice with a genetic mutation leading to this plaque buildup, akin to Alzheimer’s patients. After just four weeks of resistance training involving ladders and weights, the mice exhibited a reduction in beta-amyloid plaques. This finding suggests that resistance training could potentially mitigate a key factor contributing to Alzheimer’s symptoms.
2. Lowers the Stress Hormone
Another significant discovery was the decrease in corticosterone levels, the mouse equivalent of cortisol in humans, following resistance training. Cortisol, produced under stress, is linked to Alzheimer’s disease. The observed reduction in this hormone hints at a potential mechanism through which strength training may alleviate Alzheimer’s symptoms.
3. Decreases Anxiety
Beyond the physiological changes, resistance training also demonstrated a positive impact on anxiety levels in the mice. Alzheimer’s patients often experience restlessness and agitation, and the study found that resistance training helped alleviate these symptoms. This suggests a potential mental health benefit of incorporating strength training into the routine of those at risk of or already dealing with Alzheimer’s.
Resistance training has multiple other benefits as well, such as increased muscle mass and strength and improved balance and bone density. Moreover, resistance training strengthens connections in the brain, highlighting its role not just in preventing memory loss but also in promoting cognitive health.
The good news is that resistance training doesn’t require an elaborate setup. Whether using resistance bands, dumbbells, or even opting for weight-free exercises, incorporating this training style into your routine can be simple and effective. To start, try this 20 Minute Muscle Building Routine.
If you’re worried about Alzheimer’s, the findings from this study offer a ray of hope. As research continues to unveil the intricate connection between exercise and brain health, it’s clear that maintaining a strong body may also be the key to preserving a sharp mind.