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Can we beat Alzheimer with aerobic exercise?

Researchers prescribe exercises as a drug in a study that aims to see if it can prevent Alzheimer's disease.

"We test whether exercises are medicines for people with a mild memory problem," says Laura Baker. Principal Investigator of the EXERT National Survey and Associate Director of the Center for Alzheimer Disease Research at the Wake Forest Medical School.

The study, funded by the National Institute on Aging, can help to determine whether exercise can protect people from memory and thinking about Alzheimer's disease.

"Evidence in science has been developing over the last 20 years to suppose that exercises with the right intensity can protect brain health while we get older," says Baker.

comes from studies that were small, flowing for only a few months, or counting on people's own estimates of how much they practiced.

The EXERT study is different. It takes 300 people at high risk for Alzheimer's disease and randomly distributes them in one of the two groups for 18 months.

Half of the participants are doing aerobic exercise, like running on a treadmill. The other half are exercises for stretching and versatility.

The approach is very similar to what pharmaceutical companies use to test new drugs. Apart from this study, participants go to the local YMCA to take their medicine.

To qualify for the EXERT study, participants should be between 65 and 89 years of age and not take part in regular exercise. They also have mild cognitive impairment, a type of memory loss that often precedes Alzheimer's disease

As part of the study, participants undergo tests of memory and thinking. They also have tests for monitoring blood flow in the brain, brain atrophy and levels of toxic proteins associated with Alzheimer's disease.

All of these data will help make the results of the study final, "says Howard Feldman, professor of neurology at the University of California, San Diego, and director of the Alzheimer's Cooperative Study on Alzheimer's Disease, a consortium monitoring the EXERT trial.

And even if the study fails to keep the memory, he says, the participants benefit from it.

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