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AdventHealth researcher could help doctors prescribe the right exercise to battle dementia

The AdventHealth Neuroscience Institute is in the health system's Innovation Tower in Orlando.
Courtesy photo
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AdventHealth
The AdventHealth Neuroscience Institute is in the health system's Innovation Tower in Orlando.

Physical excercise is good for our brains as we age.

But why is that? And what's the right amount to deter dementias like Alzheimer's disease? And why do some seniors stay the course and others don't?

Kirk Erickson, a leading researcher on exercise and dementia now working at the AdventHealth Neuroscience Institute, is coordinating a major study to answer those questions.

Kirk Erickson, a leading researcher in exercise and dementia, is coordinating a major follow-up study at AdventHealth in Orlando.
Courtesy photo
/
AdventHealth
Kirk Erickson, a leading researcher in exercise and dementia, is coordinating a major follow-up study at AdventHealth in Orlando.

The five-year effort, under the acronym FLAME for Follow-up Longitudinal Analysis of Moderate-intensity Exercise, will re-examine more than 600 older adults in three cities who participated in an earlier clinical trial, according to Advent Health. That trial --the IGNITE study -- explored the effects of exercise on brain health.

Its results, delayed because of COVID-19, are still pending.

FLAME is paid for with an $11 million grant from the National Institutes of Health. Erickson said it takes that investment "because we want to re-evaluate them with everything.

"We want to know how physically active they are. We want to test their memory. We need to put them into an MRI machine. We want to reassess them on as many things as we can so that we can really plot the trajectory of change and determine whether we can predict any of those changes.

He said the study could help doctors write the right prescription for exercise tailored for individual seniors.

"[E]xercise affects the brain," he said. "That's established. What we want to do and what we've been trying to do is really provide a more definitive statement about the impact of exercise behaviors on reducing age-related cognitive impairments."

In addition to AdventHealth, the University of Pittsburgh, Northeastern University and the University of Kansas Medical Center will serve as the sites for the research, according to Advent Health.

The research will start early next year.

Joe Byrnes came to WMFE/WMFV from the Ocala Star-Banner and The Gainesville Sun, where he worked as a reporter and editor for several years. Joe graduated from Loyola University in New Orleans and turned to journalism after teaching. He enjoys freshwater fishing and family gatherings.
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