Many international studies have acknowledged the key role of physical exercise in preventing and treating many non-communicable diseases, including some types of cancer. Physical exercise especially has a positive effect on heart and brain functions, and hence represents a tool for prevention and care of cognitive decline in the elderly. A physical activity monitored and focused on the patient is an extremely important aspect of the therapeutic and recovery process, even during rehabilitation after a cardio-cerebrovascular event.
New scientific research, including some conducted by UPMC and UPMC Italy, proves that there are at least two “athletic” proteins capable of slowing down the cellular, therefore biological, aging process, offering the body more quantity and quality of life. The first protein is called klotho, a hormone belonging to the transmembrane protein family, key for increasing insulin sensitivity, and regulating the metabolic and aging processes, with higher benefits if its activity is stimulated by physical exercise. The second protein is myokine, a substance produced and released by muscle fibers when subjected to contraction, occurring with any movement-related action, which has vital effects on the entire organism. Klotho and myokine can slow the aging process, especially in elderly patients, contrast the loss of strength and muscle mass, enhance cardiovascular functions, cell resistance to stress, and help preserve cognitive functions.
“Our latest research shows that muscle contraction induced by exercise and neuromuscular electric stimulation can increase klotho levels and the regenerative potential of elderly patients’ muscles, with remarkable benefits for reducing the progression of neurodegenerative diseases,” says Fabrisia Ambrosio, Associate Professor at the Department of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation, University of Pittsburgh, and Director of Rehabilitation, UPMC International. “These promising results show that exercise, as part of rehabilitation programs tailored to match patients’ physical conditions, plays a role in contrasting the decline of tissues and muscle fibers, as well as cognitive functions, especially for the preservation of memory.” Another study funded by the Italian Ministry of Economic Development is being carried out jointly by UPMC and ISMETT to assess the potential of neuromuscular electric stimulation in preventing cognitive declines in long-term ICU patients.
The workshop was also a chance to visit the Medical and Wellness Center of the UPMC Institute for Health Chianciano Terme, a facility offering a cardiac rehabilitation program, both private and covered by the NHS, and personalized exercise plans for the prevention of cardiovascular, liver, and metabolic diseases. The Medical and Wellness Center is the result of a recent collaboration project between UPMC, Terme di Chianciano, University of Siena, and Technogym, a leading company in the field of fitness and wellness.