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Short burst of high-intensity exercise can delay Alzheimer’s

In the ongoing battle to fight Alzheimer’s – or at least delay the effects – a short high-intensity workout has been identified as a weapon.

Slowing down mentally, at least on some levels, is a normal part of ageing. But there’s a world of difference between being a bit forgetful and Alzheimer’s disease.

The link between your activity levels and your likelihood of developing Alzheimer’s is well established, but finding the time and motivation to get that exercise can be a problem. Do you really have to spend hours doing workouts to keep your mind healthy? Well, not according to research from NZ’s University of Otago.

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In a study published in The Journal of Physiology, a team of researchers found that short bursts of just six minutes of high-intensity exercise promotes the production of a protein in the brain that protects against a range of neurodegenerative diseases.

Brain-derived neurotropic factor (BDNF) is a protein that acts on certain neurons of the brain and central nervous system. When these neurons are damaged, BDNF works to replace them.

In Alzheimer’s and other cognitive conditions, those neurons are lost and not replaced, and the condition worsens as more neurons go. But higher levels of BDNF mean higher levels of neuron replacement, delaying the effects of dementia.

In the trial, the team examined 12 fit and healthy participants aged between 18 and 56. The group was split between the sexes 50-50, all participants had a body mass index (BMI) below 25 and all exercised regularly.

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The participants were taken through four different exercise and diet regimes to identify which would produce the highest amounts of BDNF: fasting for 20 hours, 90 minutes of low-intensity cycling, six minutes of high-intensity cycling, and a combination of exercise and fasting.

The results found the highest levels of BDNF were produced during the six-minute high-intensity cycling session. In fact, BDNF levels produced during the high-intensity work were five times higher than during the low-intensity session.

High-intensity in this experiment was defined as the subject operating at 100 per cent of their oxygen capacity, while low-intensity was measured at 25 per cent of the subject’s capacity.

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Fasting did not appear to have any measurable effect on BDNF levels.

Dr Travis Gibbons, co-author of the study, told Medical News Today the results showed just how much can be achieved by simply getting up and moving.

“I love seeing data that encourages people to live actively in the outdoors,” he said.

“The answer to a lot of modern-day health problems, is just beyond our doorstep.

“It is becoming more and more clear that simply getting up and moving outside throughout ageing is a much simpler, effective and equitable way to preserve ‘health’, as opposed to searching for remedies to disease.”

How often do you exercise? Will this inspire you to do more? Let us know in the comments section below.

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