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We all know that if we want to stay healthy, we have to stay active.
Yet, for many of us, fitting exercise into our daily schedule can be a challenge, making it all too easy to make excuses instead of working up a sweat.
But what if I told you that exercise could be one of the most important things you can do if you want to not only maintain a healthy body but also a strong mind?
Well, that’s exactly what staying fit can do for you according to research presented to the American Academy of Neurology.
The fitter you are, the stronger your brain
The study involved 649,605 military veterans in the Veterans Health Administration database with an average age of 61, none of whom had Alzheimer’s at the beginning of the nine-year follow-up.
The researchers measured each participant’s cardiorespiratory fitness — which notes how well your body transports oxygen to your muscles and how well the muscles absorb oxygen during exercise.
They also used a treadmill test to divide the participants into five groups, ranking them from least to most physically fit.
And you guessed it…
Staying in shape physically, also kept the participants in shape mentally.
After adjusting for all other factors that could alter the risk of Alzheimer’s, the research team discovered that:
- People with the highest level of fitness were a full 33 percent less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease than those in the least fit group.
- Group two, who were considered the second fittest group, was 26 percent less likely to develop the disease.
- The middle group was 20 percent less likely.
- Those in the second least fit group were 13 percent less likely to develop the disease than those in the least fit group.
Get fit without going overboard
“One exciting finding of this study is that as people’s fitness improved, their risk of Alzheimer’s disease decreased — it was not an all-or-nothing proposition,” said study author Edward Zamrini, MD, of the Washington VA Medical Center in Washington, D.C., and a member of the American Academy of Neurology. “So people can work toward making incremental changes and improvements in their physical fitness and hopefully that will be associated with a related decrease in their risk of Alzheimer’s years later.”
According to the researchers, if you’re middle-aged or older, you can achieve the highest level of fitness simply by walking briskly most days of the week for a total of two and a half hours or more per week.
That’s just 30 minutes a day, five days a week!
“The idea that you can reduce your risk for Alzheimer’s disease by simply increasing your activity is very promising, especially since there are no adequate treatments to prevent or stop the progression of the disease,” Zamrini said.
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