Published on: February 3, 2014
by Message Mag:
Among U.S. adults age 50 and older, staying mentally sharp outranks social security and physical health as the top priority and concern.
A new study shows aerobic exercise could be the key to mental sharpness.
The Study, conducted by researchers at the Center for BrainHealth at The University of Texas at dallas and published online in the open-access journal Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience, found that engaging in a physical exercise regimen helps healthy aging adults improve memory and brain health, as well as physical fitness.
“Science has shown that aging decreases mental efficiency and memory decline is the number one cognitive complaint of older adults,” said Sandra Bond Chapman, Ph.D., founder and chief director of the Center for BrainHealth, Dee Wyly Distinguished University Chair and lead author of the paper. “This research shows the tremendous benefit of aerobic exercise on a person’s memory and demonstrates that aerobic exercise can reduce both the biological and cognitive consequences of aging.”
For the study, sedentary adults ages 57-75 were randomized into a physical training or a wait-list control group. The physical training group participated in supervised aerobic exercise on a stationary bike or treadmill for one hour, three times a week for 12 weeks. Participants’ cognition, resting cerebral blood flow, and cardiovascular fitness were assessed at three time points: before beginning the physical exercise regimen, mid-way through at 6 weeks, and post-training at 12 weeks.
Exercisers who improved their memory performance also showed greater increase in brain blood flow to the hippocampus, the key brain region affected by Alzheimer’s disease. Chapman pointed out that, using noninvasive brain imaging techniques, brain changes were identified earlier than memory improvements, implicating brain blood flow as a promising and sensitive metric of brain health gains across treatment regimens.
“Physical exercise may be one of the most beneficial and cost-effective therapies widely available to everyone to elevate memory performance,” said Chapman. “These findings should motivate adults of all ages to start exercising aerobically.”
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