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Want to Protect Your Brain Against Alzheimer's? Work Out...But, Not Too Much

Update Date: Jun 26, 2017 11:09 PM EDT

Working out not only makes your body stronger, it makes your brain stronger, too.

Researchers from the University of Wisconsin-Madison discovered staying active enhances brain functions that are linked to developing Alzheimer's disease. The findings were published in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease.

How exactly does this happen? The scientists found that glucose metabolism, or the process by which a certain amount of fuel is given to brain cells, was better in at-risk individuals who spent at least an hour a day engaging in moderate physical activity than at-risk individuals who didn't. Exercise was split into light, moderate, and vigorous. These groups are comparable to those taking a slow stroll (light), a speedy walk (moderate), and a rigorous run (vigorous).

This is huge. "This study has implications for guiding exercise 'prescriptions' that could help protect the brain from Alzheimer's disease," says study author, Ryan Dougherty.

It also means there's something relatively easy we can do right now. "While many people become discouraged about Alzheimer's disease because they feel there's little they can do to protect against it, these results suggest that engaging in moderate physical activity may slow down the progression of the disease."

Although this connection between brain health and moderate physical exercise is an important one, the authors urge for future research to explore how physical activity connects to lowering the likelihood that the illness will occur.

In the midst of research that has suggested what helps, it's important to ask how it helps. Researcher Ozioma Onkonkwo explains that more research is diving into understanding how exercise can serve as a barrier to the development of Alzheimer's.

"Seeing a quantifiable connection between moderate physical activity and brain health is an exciting first step."

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