Improving the Quality of Life With Alzheimer's Disease Through Exercise
Alzheimer's disease (AD) is the most common form of Dementia. AD initially causes short term memory loss, confusion, indecision and gradually, recall memory.As the disease progresses it causes long term memory loss such as forgetting family members, severe personality changes, loss of speech, severe lack of independance and eventually death. AD is much more common in adults over 65 however it can occur at any age. Over 1 in 25 Australians over 60 and 1 in 4 Australians over 85 suffer from AD. There are many theories as to why Alzheimer's Disease occurs though none have been proved. The most common theory for AD is that the protein Amyloid ß forms 'plaques' over the brain which slows neural transmission within the brain, leading to nerve death. While medical treatment has been particularly ineffective for AD, exercise has been proven in many cases to have slowed or prevented AD.
Exercise as TreatmentEdit
As the full extent of how and why AD occurs is not known, medical treatment for AD has not been very effective. Despite this, many sources have reported that exercise can delay or prevent the effects of AD. This may be due to the increase in blood flow to the brain, which prevents plaques from forming by removing Amyloid ß.
The main purpose of exercise is to maintain balance, strength, proprioception, coordination and reaction time through the following recommendations. Exercise should be light at first to prevent injury.
- Exercise should be done for at least 30 minutes per session, at least 4 times per week.
- Exercise should consist of both aerobic training for cardiovascular fitness, and resistance training for muscle strength.
- Resistance exercises with a chair is a convenient way of exercising at home (see the further reading section).
- Walking, swimming and gardening are also convenient and effective methods of exercise.
AD may accompany other chronic diseases such as arthritis, hypertension or diabetes. If the individual is suffering from another chronic disease, exercise should be modified to accommodate the limitations associated with that disease. 
For further information visit the Better Health Channel website and search for Alzheimer's Disease: http://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/ or the Fight Dementia website: http://www.fightdementia.org.au/default.aspx
For more information on types of exercises see your medical professional or visit: http://www.nia.nih.gov/HealthInformation/Publications/ExerciseGuide/default.htm
- Better Health Channel (2010). "Alzheimer's Disease Explained". Mental Health Research Institute. http://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/bhcv2/bhcarticles.nsf/pages/Alzheimer%27s_disease_explained?open
- Heywood, K.M., Gretchell, N. (2009). "Life Span Motor Development Fifth Edition". p270
- Alzheimer's Australia (2005). "Alzheimer's Disease". Alzheimer's Australia. http://www.fightdementia.org.au/common/files/NAT/20100805-AANO-1-12-Alzheimers-disease-Helpsheet-final.pdf
- Gerrig, R.J. et. al.., (2008). "Psychology and Life Australian Edition". p237
- Adlard, P.A., Perreau, V.M., Pop, V., Cotman, C.W. (2005). "Voluntary Exercise Decreases Amyloid Load in a Transgenic Model of Alzheimer's Disease". The Journal of Neuroscience. Vol. 25 (17), p4217-4221. http://www.jneurosci.org/content/25/17/4217.full
- Larson, N.F. (2010) "Exercise may reduce Alzheimer's disease brain changes". Washington University School of Medicine. http://www.physorg.com/news205430929.html
- Rodgers, A.B., (2009). "Exercise & Physical Activity: Your Everyday Guide from the National Institute on Aging". National Institute on Aging. http://www.nia.nih.gov/HealthInformation/Publications/ExerciseGuide/default.htm