Education
1:47 pm
Fri April 5, 2013

Researchers Say Exercise Could Delay the Onset of Alzheimer's Disease

Regular Exercise can benefit anyone, but researchers At the University of North Carolina at Greensboro are looking to see if physical activity can delay the onset of Alzheimer’s disease.

Students at UNCG are working with Professor Jennifer Etnier (center) on the (PAAD) Alzheimer's research project on campus.
Credit UNCG

Researchers at UNCG are recruiting volunteers to take part in an experimental study that looks at the impact of exercise on cognitive brain functions.

“The reason this is so important is because we know if we can delay the onset of Alzheimer’s disease by even a short amount of time, it would have a huge impact for the individual and their family," says Jenny Etnier, a professor in the Department of Kinesiology at UNCG.

Etnier added, "From a public health perspective, if we can delay the onset of clinical dementia by six months to a year, it would have enormous implications from a public health viewpoint.”

Etnier says so far, 30 people have signed up for the research project, but 30 more are needed.

“We are looking for older adults, ages 50 to 65 years old, who have a family history of Alzheimer’s disease. The have to currently be relatively low in terms of physical activity so fewer than 150 minutes of physical activity. They have to live in the Greensboro area for a year because we will be conducting the study over eight months. Other than that they it is mostly a willingness to participate,” says Etnier.

The National Institutes of Health has awarded UNCG a $350,000 grant for the cognitive research project.

Etnier says participants will undergo genetic testing with a cheek swab before they begin the eight month exercise program. They won’t be told if they carry the gene for Alzheimer’s.

Participants will also perform physical activity such as walking and strength training with resistance bands 3 days a week. During the program, researchers will measure their cognitive performance.

According to the North Carolina Division of Aging and Adult Services, more than 170-thousand older adults with Alzheimer’s or other types of dementia live in the state.  That number is expected to nearly double by 2030.

Last week, President Obama announced that he wants to devote $100 million towards research on brain disorders such as autism, epilepsy and Alzheimer’s disease.

Becky Luck of Greensboro began the exercise study at UNCG in February. Her mom died of Alzheimer’s in 2007.  She says she is already seeing some benefits from participating in the study.

“One thing that I have taken away from the study is more of what I need to do to cognitive wise to stay as healthy as possible. The testing that they use, figures, word and memory tests are similar things to what we can do with games and computer games, so I’m finding activities to make my mind sharper,” says Luck.

The next session of the exercise program begins September 23, 2013.

A participant and the professor heading up the Alzheimer's study at UNCG talk about the experimental study on campus.