Lifelong Exercise Significantly Improves Cognitive Functioning In Later LifeMain Category: Psychology / Psychiatry
Article Date: 13 Mar 2013
Exercising regularly as a kid can result in improved cognitive functioning later in life, according to a study published in the journal Psychological Medicine.
A group of researchers at King's College London found that intensive lifelong exercise can significantly improve people's brain function at the age of 50.
It is already well known that exercise can work wonders for clearing the mind, improving blood circulation, and also has significant effects on memory and brain-specific mechanisms.
The researchers believe that their findings highlight the need for people to make long-term lifestyle changes and incorporate exercise into their lives as a way of improving cognitive well-being.
Dr Alex Dregan, Lecturer in Translational Epidemiology and Public Health at King's College London, said:
"As exercise represents a key component of lifestyle interventions to prevent cognitive decline, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancer, public health interventions to promote lifelong exercise have the potential to reduce the personal and social burden associated with these conditions in late adult years."
The study is one of the first of its kind to assess the long term cognitive effects lifelong exercising can have on the brain.
Lifelong exercise helps protect your memory and thinking skills (cognitive functioning)
The researchers gathered data on more than 9,000 people about the amount of exercise they did from the ages of 11 to 50. The data was collected by interviewing them when they were 11,16, 33, 42, 46 and 50 years old.
Participants were asked to perform cognitive tasks that assessed their memory and executive functioning. The memory task involved asking them to learn ten unrelated words, and the executive functioning test involved naming as many animals as they could in under a minute.
They found that those who exercised regularly as a child and adult - at least once per week - performed better in the tests at the age of 50 than those who didn't.
As a major public health concern, government officials suggest that in order to preserve cognitive function in later years, adults aged 19-64 should do at least 150 minutes of exercise per week.
The study also indicates that even low levels of exercise can have a positive effect on cognitive functioning - albeit less than intensive exercise.
Dr Dregan said:
"It's widely acknowledged that a healthy body equals a healthy mind. However, not everyone is willing or able to take part in the recommended 150 minutes of physical activity per week. For these people any level of physical activity may benefit their cognitive well-being in the long-term and this is something that needs to be explored further.
They found that the greatest benefits came from doing intensive exercise.
In a separate study, researchers from the US Beckman Institute at the University of Illinois and the University of Pittsburgh also found that exercise is able to keep the brain from deteriorating. They reported their findings in the British Journal of Sports Medicine
Dr Dregan concluded: 'It appears that intensive exercise may offer benefits for brain functioning in later life over and above those resulting from regular yet less intense exercise. Clinical trials are required to further explore the benefits of exercise for cognitive well-being among older adults, whilst examining the effects of exercise with varying levels of frequency and intensity."
Exercise has several benefits which impact on cognitive performanceExercise has several benefits which directly or indirectly help cognitive performance, especially if maintained over the long term, but even in the short-term, the benefits are evident:
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