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Arch Hellen Med, 30(5), September-October 2013, 546-554


The role of exercise in the incidence and treatment of Alzheimer's disease

D. Mameletzi
Laboratory of Sports Medicine, Department of Physical Education and Sports Science, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Thessaloniki, Greece

Alzheimer's disease is a progressive neurodegenerative disorder leading to cognitive decline, personality changes, global mental dysfunction and functional incapacity. The disease is one of the primary causes of morbidity in older adults and constitutes a significant burden for the patients, their families and the health system. This is a review of current data on the role of exercise in the prevention of and therapeutic approach to Alzheimer's disease. A growing body of evidence from epidemiological studies indicates that increased physical activity may reduce the incidence of Alzheimer's disease or delay the progression of the disease in older adults. Exercise is an important cost-effective, safe, non-pharmacological intervention, as it appears to lower the parameters associated with the pathophysiology of the disease, improve cognitive function, functional capacity and quality of life and contribute to the prevention and rehabilitation of co-morbid chronic diseases in the elderly. Appropriate attention should be given to the characteristics of exercise training. Exercise programs should be pleasant to follow and adapted to the needs of individual patients. In addition, they should be implemented with a view to safety, supervision and careful planning, in order to ensure long-term adherence. A mixed training programme, including aerobic, muscle strengthening, balance and flexibility exercises, is recommended as the most beneficial for individuals with Alzheimer's disease. The provision of information to the elderly, the patients with Alzheimer's disease and their families about the benefits of exercise, and the collaboration of all the relevant health professionals are two particularly important components in the promotion of physical activity as a means of improving the quality of life, even in the frail aged population.

Key words: Aged, Alzheimer's disease, Exercise, Prevention, Rehabilitation.

© Archives of Hellenic Medicine