Health

Could Physical Exertion be an important tool against Neurodegenerative Conditions?

There’s mounting substantiation that regular exercise may support the conservation of our cognitive function as we progress. According to studies, exercise not only lowers the risk of developing neurodegenerative conditions like dementia and Parkinson’s disease, but it may also decrease the progression of these conditions once they have been identified. And how does it operate? Experts were questioned by Medical News Today about the benefits of exercise for the brain’s health.

Although we are generally living longer, our health may not be improving. Women can anticipate, on average, 64.5 healthy life years (HLYs), whereas men can anticipate 63.5 HLYs. Yet, the average lifespan in the EU is 77.5 years for males and a little over 83 years for women. Hence, on average, a person can anticipate having a health issue for 15 to 20 years.

Many people will get a neurodegenerative disease, and the majority of those years of poor health are likely to occur in later years of lifeTrusted Source. According to estimates, 14–18%Trusted Source of Americans over the age of 70 have some sort of cognitive impairment. Moreover, 33% of Americans over 90 have dementia, compared to 10% of Americans in the same age range.

Yet there are strategies to help increase your HLYs, and the evidence is mounting that regular exercise may be one of the best ways to keep your body and brain in good condition for longer.
 

Physical and Mental Health Benefits of Exercise

Exercising improves our mood. A natural high from the production of endorphins and endocannabinoids, which might linger for some time after exercise but the physical impacts endure longer, is thought to be the reason larger levels are linked to lower levels of depression. One of the most crucial things you can do for your health, according to the Centers for Disease Control and PreventionTrusted Source (CDC), is to engage in regular physical activity.
 
All medical professionals concur with such a statement. Physical activity is one of the best things you can do for your body, Dr. Emer MacSweeney, CEO and consultant neuroradiologist at Re: Cognition Health, underlined in an interview with Medical News Today. Exercise keeps the heart, muscles, bones, and brain in top condition and helps prevent numerous ailments. Exercise encourages the brain’s oxygenation and the stimulation of several neurochemicals.
 
Cardiovascular disease is one of the conditions that exercise can lower the risk of. Multiple cancers, reliable source Type 2 diabetes and a dependable source Reliable Source. Also, it is essential for preserving a healthy body weight, which is another approach to reducing the risk of disease when combined with a balanced diet. Endorphins can lower stress and inflammation while also reducing pain, according to research trusted Source. Exercise can also enhance the therapeutic benefits of drugs and other treatments for mental health issues like depression.
 
According to Dr. MacSweeney, the physiological changes that happen during exercise, including the release of endorphins and serotonin, make it particularly healthy for mental health.
 

Neurological Conditions

The most prevalent type of dementia, Alzheimer’s disease affects more than 55 million people globally and more than 5 million adults in the United States alone. Parkinson’s disease affects about one million Americans, and an additional 90,000 new cases are discovered each year.
 
Both diseases are expected to become more prevalent as populations age. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there will be around 140 million individuals worldwide who trust Source with Alzheimer’s by 2050.
 
And by 2040, there may be 17 million people worldwide who have Parkinson’s disease (Reliable Source). Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease are both deadly conditions that worsen over time. Memory loss, confusion, cognitive abnormalities, and personality or behavioral changes are all signs of Alzheimer’s disease.
 
Tremors, poor coordination, sadness, and other abnormalities in cognitive function are hallmarks of Parkinson’s disease. Both Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease are now incurable, however, therapies can lessen symptoms and reduce the illness’s progression, enhancing the quality of life for those who have the conditions.
 
Exercise may help prevent the beginning of these and other neurodegenerative disorders as well as lessen their course, according to a growing body of studies. Moreover, exercise may be useful as a complementary therapy to preexisting drugs.
 
Dr. Jamie Adams, an associate professor in the Department of Neurology at the University of Rochester Medical Center in New York and the director of the Center for Health and Technology, explained to MNT: Regrettably, there are currently no effective therapies or medications that can stop or reduce the progression of Parkinson’s disease or Alzheimer’s disease. But, there is mounting proof that regular exercise can stop the condition from getting worse. Furthermore therapeutic and other health advantages of regular exercise.
 

Brain Health and Exercise

Several studies have examined the relationship between exercise and lowering the risk of Alzheimer’s and other dementia-causing conditions, and more research is required in this area. According to Dr. MacSweeney, new treatments may be developed as a result of the increased understanding of the illness that results from each study.
 
Why, then, can exercise aid in preventing or delaying these neurodegenerative conditions? Many theories exist. An important characteristic of both Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease is inflammation, which is brought on by the overactivity of immune cells in the brain known as microglia. This inflammation causes the loss of brain nerve cells, with chronic microglial overactivity resulting in a progressive loss of neurons.
 
Exercise can lower the activity of the neurological system’s immune cells, called microglia. Regular exercise protected cognitive functionality by reducing microglial activity, according to a 2021 study on elderly Alzheimer’s patients. Exercise altering how the brain processes iron is another potential method. The formation of beta-amyloid plaques, a hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease, is connected to iron buildup.
 
In mice, regular exercise lowered the amount of iron stored in the brain by lowering levels of the interleukin-6 protein, which is also connected to inflammation, according to a Finnish study. The beta-amyloid plaques were less prevalent in the animals with decreased iron levels.
 
Exercise decreases the alpha-synuclein aggregates linked to neurodegeneration in Parkinson’s disease. According to a study, the blood-borne chemical irisin, which is released during long-duration exercise, reduced these clumps but had no impact on the alpha-synuclein monomers, which are crucial for transferring nerve impulses.
 
According to Dr. MacSweeney, exercise stimulates the production of chemicals like BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor) and IGF (insulin growth factor), which help to stimulate new cell growth and strengthen connections in specific regions of the brain. Physical activity has also been shown to increase levels of two other crucial chemicals.
 
According to studies, adding more physical activity or externally administering BDNF to a Parkinson’s treatment plan may be beneficial. Moreover, the therapeutic use of IGF has been suggested for a variety of neurological conditions, such as multiple sclerosis, ALS, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) (MS).
 
Exercise is believed to promote brain cell survival and proliferation, which may help lower the risk of dementia. Exercise also increases the size of the brain region associated with memory and learning, according to studies.
 

Which Workout is Best?

Although more study on the relationship between exercise intensity and Parkinson’s disease symptoms is being conducted, evidence suggests that moderate to intense aerobic activity that raises heart rate may decrease the disease’s progression, according to Dr. Adams. It’s debatable which form of exercise is most advantageous. According to one study, raising levels of BDNF with just 6 minutes of high-intensity exercise may help delay the onset of both Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease.
 
Another study demonstrated that stretching and cycling both slowed cognitive deterioration in older persons, confirming findings from several prior investigations. Although neither had a clear advantage over the other, they were both better than doing nothing. Low-impact exercises are also effective if high-intensity exercise is not an option. In persons with Parkinson’s disease, Pilates has been found to improve balance, physical fitness, and physical function.
 
According to studies, yoga not only improves mental and physical health but may also have physiological and psychological advantages for those who have Alzheimer’s disease, MS, and other neurological conditions. Our executive function—our capacity to organize, concentrate, recall, and reason—has been demonstrated to be improved by motor abilities that include agility, balance, power, coordination, response time, and speed. Emer MacSweeney.
 

Frequent Exercise is Essential

The most crucial thing is to make exercise, in any form, a regular part of one’s regimen. A 2022 study found that consistent exercise can slow the progression of Parkinson’s disease. Individuals who exercised up to 4 hours per week experienced slower decreases in stability and balance than those who did not.
 
Additionally, regular exercise is unquestionably good for both preventing and treating Alzheimer’s disease. According to a thorough study from a reliable source, daily exercise can both lower the risk of developing dementia and decrease its progression. However, a significant conclusion of the review was that inactivity raised the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
 
Dr. MacSweeney suggested that exercise should be done either energetically three times per week for 20 minutes or moderately five times per week for 40 minutes. The most crucial thing is to be active all the time, though! You are more likely to persist with a workout routine if you find one you enjoy. Hence, there is mounting evidence that regular exercise may assist in both preventing and reducing the progression of neurodegenerative illnesses.
 
Exercise also enhances general health and lowers the risk of numerous diseases, so perhaps we should all heed Dr. Adams’ counsel: She noted that exercise can enhance socializing, improve sleep and weariness, assist increase strength, and reduce stress. All of these advantages can slow cognitive aging. In the end, all forms of exercise are advantageous, but those that people can commit to, maintain, and enjoy are the best.

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