High aerobic fitness lowers risk of brain disorder


Currently, there are no known effective treatments to prevent or stop the progression of Alzheimer’s, a progressive brain disorder that slowly destroys memory and thinking skills.

But a new large-scale study suggests cardiorespiratory fitness could play a significant role. In a massive study of 649,000 US veterans with an average age of 61, researchers found that the fittest in the group, as identified via a treadmill test, developed 33% less Alzheimer’s (after 8.8 years) than the lowest-fit.

The findings suggest the association between cardiorespiratory fitness and Alzheimer’s risk is inverse. In other words, the fitter you are, the less likely you may be to get Alzheimer’s. Running is, of course, one of the greatest fitness-enhancing exercises out there, and the results of this study give us another compelling reason to lace up.

‘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,’ said study author Edward Zamrini. We hope to develop a simple scale that can be individualized so people can see the benefits that even incremental improvements in fitness can deliver.

‘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. So people can work towards 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.’

A limitation of the study was participants were mostly white men so results may not be generalisable to other populations.

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