My Alzheimer/Dementia+Exercise Presentation

On October 17th, I was lucky to be a part of AlzheimerSociety Toronto’s annual “A Changing Melody Forum” – a day of sharing and learning for people with dementia, families, friends, and professionals.  It was my second year at the event, with my role being to deliver a talk in which I presented the existing research on exercise and brain health.  Towards the end of the talk, I also facilitated a mini-workout consisting of simple mobility-type movements.  It wasn’t quite like a 90min game of Ultimate, or doing CrossFit’s “Fran” in 5 minutes, but it got some blood flowing.

The following are some point-form notes from my presentation that I elaborated on at the forum:

  1. Did you know that only a third of cognitive and physical aging can be attributed to genetics (the other two thirds being strongly linked to exercise, nutrition, mental stimulation, and stress management)?  The most compelling scientific evidence is with relation to exercise.  It would seem like all we need is any movement that gets blood flowing, i.e. your heart pumping oxygen and nutrients to your brain cells.  Your body will actually release BDNF, a protein which stimulates your neurons to grow connections and communicate more effectively, in response to this type of exercise! This info. via Dr. Gary Small, a professor of psychiatry and director of the UCLA Longevity Center.
  2. Walking may be sufficient!
  3. Experiment on rats (sidenote, rats will actually voluntarily go on treadmill, they enjoy it) – Cotman et al. – voluntary running in rats increased marker for BDNF by 20%, which was associated with better memory in same rats.
  4. Middleton et al 2010, -even those starting p.a late in life (50’s and 60’s) show less cognitive decline and lower chances of Alz
  5. Sofi et al. (2011) – over 33,000 subjects followed up to 12 years.  High level of activity – 38% reduced risk of cognitive decline!
  6. Whitmer and Yaffe – obesity leads to 3-fold increase in chances of getting Alz…