Exercise helps keep fit, counteracts fat accumulations and reduces the risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease and cellular degeneration. And from today we also know that physical exercise protects the synaptic integrity between neurons, thus counteracting the risk of developing neurodegenerative diseases over the years. This is what emerges from a very recent scientific research that appeared in the Alzheimer's & Dementia - The Journal of the Alzheimer's Association thanks to the work of an American team from the University of California (Casaletto et al, AJA, 2022).
The importance of physical activity
Previous studies had shown that, in mice, physical activity improves cognitive function. However, to date, there was no evidence in humans that keeping physically active, even with advancing age, could protect the brain from neurodegeneration.
How physical activity can protect against Alzheimer's, the experiment
To shed light on this aspect, the American researchers drew on the data collected by the Memory and Aging Project, promoted by the University of Chicago and currently still in progress in order to identify the possible conditions capable of increasing the risk of cognitive impairment. The researchers analyzed the habits and brain health of 404 volunteers. What emerged is that those who have remained active throughout their lives, even with advancing age, have a greater amount of proteins related to synaptic integrity in the brain. A previous study, performed by the same research team, had been able to underline how greater quantities of these same proteins mean a greater ability to maintain cognitive function intact and healthy. These results were confirmed by the fact that, as emerged in the study we are talking about today, despite the fact that in some cases in the brains of volunteers there were, in high quantities, toxic accumulations of beta amyloid and tau proteins, the main indicators of Alzheimer's disease, in the brain of those who have always kept active healthy proteins were also increased, capable of increasing and supporting synaptic connections, thus allowing correct brain functioning. What emerged is, therefore, that physical exercise is able to block the cascade of harmful reactions that lead to Alzheimer's. Another noteworthy fact was that the increase in proteins capable of improving synapses was observed in various brain areas.
The ancients said it, mens sana in corpore sano, that can be translated as a healthy mind in a healthy body. A healthy, active body is reflected in a healthy mind and brain. Here is another proof of the importance of moderate physical activity, at all ages.