Just 6 MINUTES of high-intensity daily exercise may ward off dementia

The SIX MINUTE daily exercise that might be enough to ward off Alzheimer’s

  • Scientists from the University of Otago in New Zealand analysed 12 people
  • They studied how to boost production of brain-derived neurotrophic factor 
  • Short bursts of intense exercise increased BDNF most efficiently, experts found 

Just six minutes of high-intensity exercise per day could help delay the onset of Alzheimer’s, new research suggests.

Scientists have found short bursts of intense physical activity could extend the lifespan of a healthy brain and delay cognitive decline.

The team, from the University of Otago in New Zealand, recruited 12 people as part of their study.

They wanted to find the best way to boost production of a certain protein, called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF).

Results of the study, published in The Journal of Physiology, revealed brief but vigorous exercise was the most efficient way to increase BDNF, as it increased as much as five-fold compared to those who fasted or did light exercise

This protein is already known to be essential for brain formation, learning and memory and promotes the ability of the brain to form new connections and pathways.

Studies in animals have shown increasing the availability of BDNF encourages the formation and storage of memories, enhances learning and boosts cognitive performance.

WHAT IS HIGH INTENSITY INTERVAL TRAINING?

HIIT describes any workout that involves short burst of high-intensity exercise followed by a brief low-intensity activity, repeatedly.

The medium exercise should be about 50% intensity. The number of repetitions and length of each depends on the exercise, but may be as little as three repetitions with just 20 seconds of intense exercise. 

There is no specific formula to HIIT. A common method involves a 2:1 ratio of work to recovery periods, for example, 30-40 seconds of hard sprinting alternated with 15-20 seconds of jogging or walking, repeated to failure.

The entire HIIT session may last between four and 30 minutes, meaning that it is considered to be an good way to maximize a workout in a short time. 

However pharmaceutical interventions – such as taking medication – have not been able to successfully increase the amount of BDNF produced by the human body.

Participants were closely analysed as they undertook four different possible ways to boost the protein.

This included fasting for 20 hours, 90 minutes of low-intensity cycling, a six-minute bout of vigorous exercise consisting of 40 seconds of cycling and 20 seconds of rest, or combined fasting and exercise.

Results, published in The Journal of Physiology, revealed brief but vigorous exercise was the most efficient way to increase BDNF, as it increased as much as five-fold compared to those who fasted or did light exercise.

The researchers suggest this could be because intense exercise increases the number of platelets – which store large amounts of the protein – being released by the body.

Lead author Travis Gibbons said: ‘BDNF has shown great promise in animal models, but pharmaceutical interventions have thus far failed to safely harness the protective power of BDNF in humans.

‘We saw the need to explore non-pharmacological approaches that can preserve the brain’s capacity which humans can use to naturally increase BDNF to help with healthy ageing.’

A recent study also found that one-minute bursts of daily activity like running for a bus could help prolong life.

Researchers from the University of Sydney’s Charles Perkins Centre discovered just three to four short spells of huffing and puffing during daily tasks was linked to a 40 per cent reduction in dying early.

It was also associated with up to a 49 per cent decrease in the risk of death related to cardiovascular disease, such as a heart attack or stroke. 

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HOW MUCH EXERCISE YOU NEED

To stay healthy, adults aged 19 to 64 should try to be active daily and should do:

  • at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity such as cycling or brisk walking every week and
  • strength exercises on 2 or more days a week that work all the major muscles (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders and arms)

Or:

  • 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity such as running or a game of singles tennis every week and
  • strength exercises on 2 or more days a week that work all the major muscles (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders and arms)

Or:

  • a mix of moderate and vigorous aerobic activity every week – for example, 2 x 30-minute runs plus 30 minutes of brisk walking equates to 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity and
  • strength exercises on 2 or more days a week that work all the major muscles (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders and arms)

A good rule is that 1 minute of vigorous activity provides the same health benefits as 2 minutes of moderate activity.

One way to do your recommended 150 minutes of weekly physical activity is to do 30 minutes on 5 days every week.

All adults should also break up long periods of sitting with light activity.

Source: NHS 

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