Exercise is key to fending off Alzheimer’s

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Exercise is key to fending off Alzheimer’s
Half an hour a day, three days a week, is all it takes

The Daily News

It’s an idea that 20 years ago would have caused “peals of laughter.”

“A half an hour, three days a week, of exercise that’s more vigorous than a walk – so a brisk walk – is enough to reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease by about half,” Kenneth Rockwood said yesterday.

“What was ridiculous 20 years ago is mainstream right now. I think we, as a society, need to give thought to how we’re going to act on this,” the Halifax professor of geriatric medicine and neurology told a crowd gathered at the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia to mark the launch of Alzheimer Awareness Month.

This year’s campaign – Heads Up! for Healthier Brains – emphasizes the link that healthy living, including exercising, eating well, and keeping your brain active, has with preventing the disease. It also marks the 25th anniversary of the Alzheimer Society of Nova Scotia; about 14,000 Nova Scotians have the disease or other dementias.

Premier Rodney MacDonald showed up for the event, filling out an online pledge at www.alzheimer.ns.ca to live a “brain-healthy lifestyle.”

“This is the time of year when people make resolutions, or commitments, to make changes to their lives, and I can’t think of a better time of year to make a healthy-brain commitment,” he said.

While MacDonald pledged to go for a weekly run, Rockwood drew laughter when he said that might not be quite enough.

“The amount of exercise that you need is not a staggering amount. It’s more than one run a week, but that’s a great start,” he said.

Rockwood, who’s been researching the issue for years, said Alzheimer’s treatment also works better when an exercise component is included.

That’s been the experience of Cheryl Conrad, whose husband Owen was diagnosed with the disease about a year-and-a-half ago. The couple tries to walk each day and, although Owen is 80 now, he still works with the family office-cleaning business.

“It makes him feel very wanted, very needed, very useful. Don’t put people on a shelf just because they have memory loss,” Cheryl Conrad said from the couple’s home in Conquerall Bank, Lunenburg Co.

The couple does puzzles and plays games, and her husband continues to play many musical instruments, she told The Daily News.

“We try every day to do something that will be stimulating, to any of his senses,” said Cheryl Conrad. “I feel like I’ve got these claws into his brain, and I’m like ‘No, you’re not having this part because I’m going to keep this part active.'”

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