Four weeks to a healthier brain: Resistance training may prevent or delay Alzheimer’s disease

Brain boost healing concept

One study found that regular resistance exercise can prevent or delay the onset of Alzheimer’s disease symptoms. In an experiment with transgenic mice, resistance training was found to reduce the formation of beta-amyloid plaques and normalize levels of corticosterone, the stress hormone linked to Alzheimer’s. Researchers believe that the anti-inflammatory effects of resistance training could be a major reason for its effectiveness in staving off Alzheimer’s. The study concluded that resistance exercise could be an affordable and accessible therapy for Alzheimer’s patients.

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Experiments in mice have shown that four weeks of weight training is sufficient to reverse the behavioral and physical changes characteristic of the disease.

Regular exercise, such as resistance training, can prevent it[{» attribute=»»>Alzheimers disease, or at least delay the appearance of symptoms, and serves as a simple and affordable therapy for Alzheimers patients. This is the conclusion of an articlepublished in the journal Frontiers in Neuroscienceby Brazilian researchers affiliated with the Federal University of So Paulo (UNIFESP) and the University of So Paulo (USP).

Although older people and dementia patients are unlikely to be able to do long daily runs or perform other high-intensity aerobic exercises, these activities are the focus for most scientific studies on Alzheimers. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends resistance exercise as the best option to train balance, improve posture and prevent falls. Resistance exercise entails contraction of specific muscles against an external resistance and is considered an essential strategy to increase muscle mass, strength, and bone density, and to improve overall body composition, functional capacity, and balance. It also helps prevent or mitigate sarcopenia (muscle atrophy), making everyday tasks easier to perform.

To observe the neuroprotective effects of this practice, researchers in UNIFESPs Departments of Physiology and Psychobiology, and the Department of Biochemistry at USPs Institute of Chemistry (IQ-USP), conducted experiments involving transgenic mice with a mutation responsible for a buildup of beta-amyloid plaques in the brain. The protein accumulates in the central nervous system, impairs synaptic connections, and damages neurons, all of which are features of Alzheimers disease.

During the study, which was funded by FAPESP, the mice were trained to climb a 110 cm ladder with a slope of 80 and 2 cm between rungs. Loads were attached to their tails corresponding to 75%, 90%, and 100% of their body weight. The experiment mimicked certain kinds of resistance training undertaken by humans in fitness centers.

At the end of a four-week period of training, blood samples were taken to measure plasma levels of corticosterone, the hormone in mice equivalent to cortisol in humans; rising levels in response to stress heightens the risk of developing Alzheimers. Levels of the hormone were normal (equal to those found in the control group comprising animals without the mutation) in the exercise-trained mice, and analysis of their brain tissue showed a decrease in the formation of beta-amyloid plaques.

This confirms that physical activity can reverse neuropathological alterations that cause clinical symptoms of the disease, said Henrique Correia Campos, first author of the article.

We also observed the animals behavior to assess their anxiety in the open field test [which measures avoidance of the central area of a box, the most stress-inducing area] and found that resistance exercise reduced hyperlocomotion to levels similar to controls among mice with the Alzheimer’s-associated phenotype, said Deidiane Elisa Ribeiro, co-first author of the paper and researcher at IQ-USPs Neuroscience laboratory. Restlessness, restlessness, and wandering are frequent early symptoms of Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia.

Resistance exercise is increasingly proving to be an effective strategy to avoid the appearance of symptoms of sporadic Alzheimer’s [not directly caused by a single inherited genetic mutation], which is multifactorial and may be associated with aging or delay their onset in familial Alzheimer’s. The main possible reason for this efficacy is the anti-inflammatory action of resistance exercise, said Beatriz Monteiro Longo, co-author of the paper and a professor of neurophysiology at UNIFESP.

Literature review

The animal model study was based on a literature review published inFrontiers of neurosciencein which the same UNIFESP group collected clinical evidence that the benefits of resistance exercise include positive effects on cognitive dysfunction, memory impairment and behavioral problems in patients with Alzheimer’s, concluding that it may be an economic alternative or a adjuvant therapy.

Researchers from the Federal University of Rio Grande do Norte (UFRN) and the Federal University of Ouro Preto (UFOP) in Brazil also took part in the study.

Alzheimer’s isn’t just about the patient. The whole family is affected, especially in low-income families, said Caroline Vieira Azevedo, first author of the review article and a graduate student at UNIFESP. Both articles offer information that can be used to stimulate the creation of public policy. She imagines the cost savings if the onset of symptoms in older patients is delayed by ten years.

Reference: Neuroprotective effects of resistance exercise on the APP/PS1 mouse model of Alzheimer’s disease by Henrique Correia Campos, Deidiane Elisa Ribeiro, Debora Hashiguchi, Talita Glaser, Milena da Silva Milanis, Christiane Gimenes, Deborah Suchecki, Ricardo Mario Arida, Henning Ulrich and Beatriz Monteiro Longo, April 6, 2023, Frontiers of neuroscience.
DOI: 10.3389/fnins.2023.1132825

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