Engaging in vigorous activity compared to moderate exercise may lower the rate of dying from Alzheimer’s disease, according to a new study. The study was published in the December issue of The Lancet Healthy Longevity.

Researchers compiled data from 22 back-to-back waves of the U.S. National Health Interview Survey from 1997 to 2018; a total of more than 91,0000 study participants aged 68 and older were involved. The people self-reported on their activity. The mean age was 75.8 years old.

The researchers linked survey participants to the National Death Index until Dec. 31, 2019, and spotted anyone who died from Alzheimer’s disease. Of the participants, 2,176 study participants died with Alzheimer’s disease listed as the leading cause.

There wasn’t much of a link between moderate exercise and a lower death rate. But people who engaged in vigorous exercise (such as aerobics) at least 40 minutes to 140 minutes per week lowered their risk of dying from Alzheimer’s disease.

The researchers wrote that 40 weekly minutes of vigorous exercise could prevent 12,238 deaths per year, while 140 minutes a week of vigorous exercise would prevent 37,710 deaths per year from Alzheimer’s disease.

“[It] could be that moderate intensity is not enough to elicit an optimal response to affect Alzheimer’s disease or its prevention,” Borja del Pozo Cruz is a principal researcher in applied health sciences at the University of Cadiz and INIBiCA in Spain, and a lead author, told Medical News Today. “It could also be that [the] question to collect moderate activity did also include some forms of lighter activities.”

“I think [the message] is clear — do engage in vigorous physical activity to maximize the chances of preventing Alzheimer’s disease, and possibly a number of other health benefits will also appear,” del Pozo Cruz said. Even though there was a link, he said the study needs to be replicated with better exposures to make definitive conclusions about how intensity is crucial for Alzheimer’s disease.

30 minutes, five days a week recommended

According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 2018 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, older adults should receive at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise five days a week and do muscle-strengthening exercises for at least two days a week. Less than one-third of people over the age of 65 meet those recommendations.

The National Council on Aging (NCOA) recently compiled information on exercise programs supported by federal funding sources. Some of the programs include Active Choices, AEA Arthritis Foundation Aquatic Program, Bingocize®, Eat Smart, Move More, Weigh Less, Fit and Strong!, Geri-Fit®, and On the Move.