Exercising for 30 minutes four times a week may delay brain deterioration in people likely to develop Alzheimer’s, scientists have shown.

Researchers from the University of Texas found that people who had an accumulation of amyloid beta protein in the brain — an early sign Alzheimer’s disease is on the way — experienced slower degeneration in a region of the brain crucial for memory if they exercised regularly for one year.

Scientists say the findings suggest that aerobic workouts can at least slow down effects of the disease if intervention occurs in early stages.

“What are you supposed to do if you have amyloid clumping together in the brain? Right now doctors can’t prescribe anything,” said Dr Rong Zhang, who led the clinical trial.

“If these findings can be replicated in a larger trial, then maybe one day doctors will be telling high-risk patients to start an exercise plan. In fact, there’s no harm in doing so now.” Scientists are yet to find a drug that can prevent, cure or delay the condition. But the research suggests exercise could help.

The team compared the mental function and brain volume of 70 participants ages 55 and older who were either sedentary or who exercised for at least half an hour, four to five times a week.

Brain imaging showed people from the exercise group who had amyloid build-up experienced slightly less volume reduction in their hippocampus, a memory-related brain region that progressively deteriorates as dementia takes hold.

NZH

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