Toronto - It's never too late to lace up shoes and work up a sweat for brain health as older adults, even couch potatoes, may perform better on certain thinking and memory tests after just six months of aerobic exercise, says a new study.
Researchers found that after six months of exercise, participants improved by 5.7 per cent on tests of executive function, which includes mental flexibility and self-correction.
Verbal fluency, that tests how quickly you can retrieve information, increased by 2.4 per cent. This change in verbal fluency is what one can expect to see in someone five years younger.
"As we all find out eventually, we lose a bit mentally and physically as we age. But even if you start an exercise programme later in life, the benefit to your brain may be immense," said study author Marc J Poulin from University of Calgary in Alberta, Canada.
Aerobic exercise gets blood moving through your body.
"As our study found, it may also get blood moving to your brain, particularly in areas responsible for verbal fluency and executive functions. Our finding may be important, especially for older adults at risk for Alzheimer's and other dementias and brain disease," Poulin said in a study published in Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.
The study involved 206 adults who prior to starting the six-month exercise intervention worked out no more than four days per week at a moderate intensity for 30 minutes or less, or no more than two days per week a high intensity for 20 minutes or less per day.
They had an average age of 66 and no history of heart or memory problems.
Participants were given thinking and memory tests at the start of the study, as well as an ultrasound to measure blood flow in the brain.
"Our study showed that six months' worth of vigorous exercise may pump blood to regions of the brain that specifically improve your verbal skills as well as memory and mental sharpness," informed Poulin.
"At a time when these results would be expected to be decreasing due to normal aging, to have these types of increases is exciting," the authors wrote. (Agency)
New York, Feb 4 . Researchers have found that regular aerobic exercise not only improves physical health but also improves cognitive functioning, which might protect against Alzheimer's disease.
"This study is a significant step toward developing an exercise prescription that protects the brain against Alzheimer's disease, even among people who were previously sedentary," said lead investigator Ozioma C Okonkwo from University of Wisconsin in the US. For the study, published in the journal Brain Plasticity, researchers investigated 23 cognitively normal, relatively young older adults with a family history or genetic risk for Alzheimer's.
All patients had a sedentary lifestyle. They underwent a battery of assessments, including cardiorespiratory fitness testing, measurement of daily physical activity, brain glucose metabolism imaging (a measure of neuronal health), and cognitive function tests.
Half of the participants were randomly assigned to receive information about maintaining an active lifestyle but no further intervention.
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The other half participated in a moderate intensity treadmill training program with a personal trainer, three times per week for 26 weeks.
Compared to the participants maintaining their usual level of physical activity, individuals assigned to the active training program improved their cardiorespiratory fitness, spent less time sedentary after the training program ended, and performed better on cognitive tests of executive functioning (but not episodic memory).
Executive function, an aspect of cognition that is known to decline with the progression of Alzheimer's, comprises the mental processes enabling individuals to plan, focus attention, remember instructions, and juggle multiple tasks successfully.
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The participants' improved cardiorespiratory fitness was associated with increased brain glucose metabolism in the posterior cingulate cortex, an area of the brain linked to Alzheimer's.
This research shows that a lifestyle behaviour -- regular aerobic exercise -- can potentially enhance brain and cognitive functions that are particularly sensitive to the disease.
"The findings are especially relevant to individuals who are at a higher risk due to family history or genetic predisposition," Okonkwo said.
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