Physical exercise in the prevention and treatment of Alzheimer's disease

J Sport Health Sci. 2020 Sep;9(5):394-404. doi: 10.1016/j.jshs.2020.01.004. Epub 2020 Feb 4.


Dementia is one of the greatest global challenges for health and social care in the 21st century. Alzheimer's disease (AD), the most common type of dementia, is by no means an inevitable consequence of growing old. Several lifestyle factors may increase, or reduce, an individual's risk of developing AD. Much has been written over the ages about the benefits of exercise and physical activity. Among the risk factors associated with AD is a low level of physical activity. The relationship between physical and mental health was established several years ago. In this review, we discuss the role of exercise (aerobic and resistance) training as a therapeutic strategy for the treatment and prevention of AD. Older adults who exercise are more likely to maintain cognition. We address the main protective mechanism on brain function modulated by physical exercise by examining both human and animal studies. We will pay especial attention to the potential role of exercise in the modulation of amyloid β turnover, inflammation, synthesis and release of neurotrophins, and improvements in cerebral blood flow. Promoting changes in lifestyle in presymptomatic and predementia disease stages may have the potential for delaying one-third of dementias worldwide. Multimodal interventions that include the adoption of an active lifestyle should be recommended for older populations.

Keywords: Aerobic exercise; Dementia; Exercise training; Lifestyle factors; Multidomain interventions; Resistance exercise.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aging / physiology
  • Alzheimer Disease / metabolism
  • Alzheimer Disease / prevention & control*
  • Alzheimer Disease / therapy*
  • Amyloid beta-Peptides / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Brain / physiology
  • Cerebrovascular Circulation
  • Cognition
  • Exercise Therapy*
  • Exercise*
  • Healthy Lifestyle
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / metabolism
  • Nerve Growth Factors / metabolism
  • Risk Factors
  • tau Proteins / metabolism


  • Amyloid beta-Peptides
  • Nerve Growth Factors
  • tau Proteins