With a new year around the corner, many of us are making goals to live a healthier life by eating better and exercising, usually with the goals of looking and feeling better, increasing strength and energy, and improving cardiovascular health.

Ian Murray, Ph.D.

Ian Murray, Ph.D.

But research suggests exercise also can protect you from the sixth-leading cause of death in the United States: Alzheimer’s disease.

Alzheimer’s is a type of dementia that causes problems with memory, thinking and behavior. It is often severe enough to interfere with everyday life and currently cannot be cured or slowed.

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, 5.4 million Americans are living with the disease, and someone develops it every 6.8 seconds. But despite the feelings of helplessness many feel toward their chances of developing the disease, studies have shown a simple daily workout can help prevent it.

Ian Murray, Ph.D., assistant professor of neuroscience and experimental therapeutics at the Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Medicine, is investigating the relationship between metabolic dysfunctions (obesity and diabetes) and Alzheimer’s disease.

“In general, anything that is good for the heart is good for the brain,” Dr. Murray says. “Also, obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes are risk factors for Alzheimer’s. It is well known that exercise can reduce these risk factors.”

For those whose New Year’s resolutions seem to dissolve somewhere around mid-April, there is good news. Dr. Murray says existing research recommends setting a reasonable goal for exercise, such as 30-45 minutes a day, three times a week.

“Pick a TV show that you do not really need to watch and walk around your neighborhood for that long instead,” Dr. Murray says.

So instead of planning to run a marathon and getting overwhelmed a few months in, establish reasonable expectations that will be easier to for you stick to over the long haul. You may just be preventing yourself from becoming another statistic.

— Jeremiah McNichols

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