The practice of resisted physical exercises, such as bodybuilding, is able to prevent or at least delay the onset of Alzheimer’s symptoms and works as a simple and accessible therapy for patients with the disease. The conclusion was published by researchers from the Federal Universities of São Paulo (Unifesp) and São Paulo (USP) in the journal Frontiers in Neuroscience.
Although the elderly and patients with dementia are unlikely to be able to perform high-intensity aerobic exercise, such as running, these activities are the focus of most scientific work related to Alzheimer’s disease. The WHO (World Health Organization), in turn, recommends resistance exercise as the best option for maintaining balance and posture and, consequently, preventing falls.
Resistance exercise is characterized by contractions of specific muscles against external resistance and is considered an essential strategy for increasing muscle mass, strength and bone density, as well as improving overall body composition, functional capacity and balance. In addition, it helps to prevent or mitigate sarcopenia (muscle weakness), facilitating the performance of everyday tasks.
To observe the neuroprotective effects of this practice, researchers from the departments of Physiology and Psychobiology at Unifesp and Biochemistry at the Institute of Chemistry at USP (IQ-USP) conducted experiments with transgenic mice that have a mutation responsible for the accumulation of beta-amyloid plaques in the brain . These proteins group together in the central nervous system, compromise the transmission of synapses and cause damage to neurons, being considered typical hallmarks of Alzheimer’s disease.
During the study, funded by Fapesp, the animals were trained to climb a ladder 110 centimeters high, with an 80° inclination and steps separated by two centimeters. A progressive load of 75%, 90% and 100% of their weight was attached to the tails. The exercise mimics what can be done on equipment used in gyms for this purpose.
At the end of the training, which lasted four weeks, blood samples were taken from the mice and levels of corticosterone (hormone equivalent to cortisol in humans, whose increase is related to stress and, consequently, to a greater risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease ), were measured. The analyzes showed that the level of this hormone in the trained rodents was normalized, equaling that of the control group, composed of healthy animals (without the mutation). Brain analysis also revealed a decrease in the formation of beta-amyloid plaques.
“This confirms that physical activity can reverse neuropathological changes that cause the clinical symptoms of the disease”, says study co-author Henrique Correia Campos.
“We also observed the behavior of the mice to assess their anxiety in the open field. [os animais se movimentavam livremente em uma arena enquanto os cientistas mensuravam o número de vezes que cruzavam o centro] and we saw that resistance exercise reduced hyperlocomotion in those who had the phenotype related to Alzheimer’s disease, matching it to the control group”, says Deidiane Elisa Ribeiro, researcher at the Laboratory of Neurosciences at IQ-USP, who shared the first authorship from the article with Campos This movement is interpreted as the agitation characteristic of some patients with Alzheimer’s or another type of dementia.
“Resisted physical exercise is increasingly confirmed as an effective strategy to prevent the onset of sporadic Alzheimer’s symptoms [não associada a uma mutação herdada]which is multifactorial and may be related to aging, or to delay them in cases of the familial form of the disease”, summarizes Beatriz Monteiro Longo, professor of neurophysiology at Unifesp and coordinator of the work. “The main possible reason for this is its action anti-inflammatory.”
review of studies
The work in an animal model was based on a review of studies published by the same Unifesp group in Frontiers in Neuroscience, which provides clinical evidence that resistance physical exercises are indeed beneficial to minimize the deficit in cognitive and behavioral functions caused by Alzheimer’s disease and can be proposed as an accessible alternative therapy.
“In addition to the patient, Alzheimer’s disease also affects the whole family, especially if it is low-income”, says Caroline Vieira Azevedo, author of the review article. “The two works bring information that can be used to stimulate the creation of public policies. Imagine the reduction in costs by delaying the appearance of symptoms in elderly patients by ten years.”
Researchers from the Federal University of Rio Grande do Norte (UFRN) and Federal University of Ouro Preto (Ufop) also participated in the investigation.
The article “Neuroprotective effects of resistance physical exercise on the APP/PS1 mouse model of Alzheimer’s disease” can be accessed at this link.
The study “The effects of resistance exercise on cognitive function, amyloidogenesis, and neuroinflammation in Alzheimer’s disease” is available here.