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Exercise in Early Stage Alzheimer’s: July 25, 2011

The day her husband and lifelong partner Aldo was diagnosed is a day Dolores Bertolini will never forget.

“After three months of testing, and we got the diagnosis had had very early Alzheimer’s disease.”

It’s not something that goes down easy.

“With his personality decided that was not a good diagnosis it was not a diagnosis for him and he was not gonna even address it and it would go away,” says Dolores.

But experts advise being pro-active. One way to stay independent longer is to keep the body active. Animal testing shows a connection between exercise and the brain. Dr. Michael Raab works with the aging brain.

“The animal studies where animals exercise show that the number of new nerve cells formed in the brain when there’s regular exercise is four times the number that are formed in a brain without exercise.”

Preliminary research is showing much the same in humans; that staying physically fit may slow brain shrinkage.

Aerobic exercise, walking or anything that gets the heart pumping increases blood volume and promotes new cell growth. It’s that cell growth that’s linked to improved memory.

“So if you want to stay at home longer then physical exercise slows the memory loss by generating new nerve cells making the cells that are there healthier,” says Dr. Raab.

And it’s not just the body that could use a workout.

“By adding the brain exercises, especially the processing speed and reasoning, and retraining yourself and how to use your brain more efficiently through the memory techniques you’re able to slow down the impact on your function and your ability to do things in life,” says Dr. Raab.

It’s well known that staying fit helps older adults without dementia offset cognitive decline. The hope is that Alzheimer’s sufferers can put physical activity to work for them too.