Aerobic Exercise May Help Slow Cognitive Decline in Those with Alzheimer’s

Exercise carries with it a variety of benefits, including easing the symptoms of illnesses and softening the impacts of their treatments. According to a new study, it may also help slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease.

An Arizona State University research team looked at the impact of aerobic exercise on older adults living with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s. The results were recently published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease.

Fang Yu, an ASU Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation Professor, led the pilot trial. He says, “Our primary finding indicates that a six-month aerobic exercise intervention significantly reduced cognitive decline in comparison to the natural course of changes for Alzheimer’s dementia.”


To conduct the study, 96 participants were asked to either take part in a cycling or stretching regiment for six months. After that period ended, their cognition was tested using the Alzheimer’s Disease Assessment Scale-Cognition.

Researchers say that with regular progression, the six-month change is expected to be a 3.2±6.3-point increase. The participants in this study saw significantly lower numbers, though, with the cycling group increasing by 1.0±4.6 and the stretching group seeing a 0.1±4.1 increase.

The study did not find a benefit of aerobic exercise over stretching, but that could be due to the fact that this was a pilot trial.

Yu explains, “We don’t have the statistical power to detect between-group differences; there was substantial social interaction effect in the stretching group, and many stretching participants did aerobic exercise on their own.”


Study authors say these findings show how important it is to encourage those with Alzheimer’s to exercise in order to maintain their cognitive levels longer. This is in addition to the benefits it provides to people in this group in general.

Yu says, “Aerobic exercise has a low profile of adverse events in older adults with Alzheimer’s dementia as demonstrated by our trial. Regardless of its effect on cognition, the current collective evidence on its benefits supports the use of aerobic exercise as an additional therapy for Alzheimer’s disease.”

Exercise may also reduce the risk of getting Alzheimer’s. Studies have shown that people who exercise more are less likely to have their mental function decline, less likely to develop Alzheimer’s, and maybe even have improved thinking among those with cognitive impairment.


The Mayo Clinic says getting active for just 30 to 60 minutes several times a week may keep your brain sharp and delay the start of Alzheimer’s for people at high risk. They also say that for those with mild Alzheimer’s or cognitive impairment, exercise can improve memory, reasoning, judgment, and thinking skills.

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