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Okanagan researcher finds exercise offers hope in the fight against Alzheimer’s disease

Click to play video: 'A new study sheds light on the significant role regular exercise plays in the fight against Alzheimer’s disease'
A new study sheds light on the significant role regular exercise plays in the fight against Alzheimer’s disease
A new study sheds light on the significant role regular exercise plays in the fight against Alzheimer’s disease – May 16, 2017

A study by an Okanagan researcher found that regular exercise plays a key role in fighting Alzheimer’s disease, the most common form of dementia.

“It significantly reduces the risk,” UBC Okanagan researcher Kathleen Martin Ginis said. “Exercise has a positive impact on the hippocampus and that is the region of the brain that is really important for memory and it is one of the first regions of [the] brain that gets damaged during Alzheimer’s disease and exercise has a positive impact on that region of the brain.”

The research suggests that regular exercise doesn’t just help prevent the disease but also helps people living with it manage it and even improve the performance of daily activities.

While there are still some unanswered questions such as how much exercise is needed and when exactly a person needs to start an exercise regime to help stave off the disease, the Alzheimer Society of B.C. suggests the earlier the better.

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“The changes that happen in the brain are often happening 20 to 30 years before the symptoms present,” Jane Murray with the Alzheimer Society of B.C. said. “So to me what the study adds for us all is that we need to be considering exercising and looking after a healthy brain from an early stage in our lives.”

The study reveals the more intense the exercise, the better the chance in reducing the risk.

“We often encourage people to use the talk test which means that when you are walking or cycling you want to be doing it at an intensity that is a little bit challenging to talk and sing, you don’t want to be completely out of breath but it needs to be challenging,” Martin Ginis said.

With no cure for the debilitating disease, the study plays an important role not only for patients but family members as well.

“Many people see Alzhimer’s disease as a death sentence, it’s hopeless, it is helpless, there’s nothing they can do,” Martin Ginis said. “We also know there are people who have a disease in their family and I think that must be very frightening to look at your loved ones, to see that decline and wonder what will happen to me, will that be something that will happen to to me. I think this evidence gives people hope.”

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