I AM NOT GOING TO LIE: I worry about losing some of my cognitive abilities as I age. A new study confirms my belief that exercise can help keep the brain sharp (but with an important caveat, at least for this study).
We begin with this observation: There is an association between movement and improved cognition in older and younger adults. What remains an open question is whether physical activity prevents cognitive decline and dementia.
I always perk up when I see a study looking at how you and I can improve our cognitive functioning. We’ll be brief today, as the study is small and not groundbreaking.
Exercise and mental function
The University of California, San Diego (USA) researchers enrolled 90 adults, ages 50 to 74, into a clinical trial. The subjects wore devices to measure physical activity levels and completed cognition tests at home.
The findings: The participants demonstrated better thinking on the days with higher physical activity.
The relationship between exercise and brain function appeared linear: The more physical activity, the better the scores on cognition tests. This relationship remained after researchers controlled for age, sex, education, race, and ethnicity.
Here’s the rub: The association between physical activity and mental function only appeared for those who relied on others to do day-to-day tasks (for example, bill-paying or household management).
We are functionally independent get more brain stimulation through our daily lives. Therefore, physical activity may have less of an impact on mental functioning. In addition, the study does not examine the long-term effects of physical activity on the brain.
I am pleased that physical activity improves cognitive functioning, at least in the short term. Take that walk today, and your brain will thank you.