ABC Medical Center > Digital magazine > Prevention and progression of neurodegenerative diseases through physical activity

Prevention and progression of neurodegenerative diseases through physical activity

Key points

  • It is scientifically proven that physical activity can prevent the development and progression of neurodegenerative diseases.

  • Aerobic exercise is a great ally to help patients with diseases such as Parkinson’s.

Neurodegenerative diseases are a group of conditions that affect the central nervous system, causing progressive degeneration and neuronal death in specific areas of the brain. To learn more about this topic, Dr. Nadia Alejandra Gandarilla Martínez, a neurologist at the ABC Medical Center, tells us about the seriousness of some diseases that can lead older adults to have significant motor and cognitive disabilities.

In the last decade, the neuroprotective effect of physical activity has been evidenced, demonstrating that it delays the development and progression of neurodegenerative diseases. Specifically, aerobic exercise increases cardiac output and blood flow to the brain, favoring its oxygenation.

This process stimulates the formation of new neurons, increasing their connections, which translates into improved memory and cognitive function. In the case of Parkinson’s patients, this helps them increase walking speed, step length, and motor balance, stimulating dopamine synthesis in the remaining dopaminergic neurons, and slowing down the progression of this disease.

In response, physical activity and training programs increase serotonin levels (happiness hormone) associated with psychological and physiological changes, including feelings of euphoria and well-being. Other activities that benefit people with Parkinson’s are dance or Tai-Chi.

With this, it is demonstrated that physical activity favors neuroplasticity, which is the brain’s ability to change its structural and functional properties to adapt in response to changing demands by acquiring new knowledge and skills.

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