A relatively small increase in exercise is enough to boost brain function in older adults, a new study finds.
The amount of exercise that’s beneficial is equivalent to a brisk 25-minute walk several times a week.
Healthy over-65s who exercised more had better attention and ability to focus, the research found.
Professor Jeffrey Burns, co-director of the Kansas University Alzheimer’s Disease Center, said:
“Basically, the more exercise you did, the more benefit to the brain you saw.
Any aerobic exercise was good, and more is better.”
For the study, 101 healthy people over 65 were split into four groups, three of which did some extra exercise.
The three groups did 75, 150 and 225 minutes of exercise per week.
They were compared with a group that were relatively sedentary.
All the groups saw some benefit, but the more exercise people did, the better they performed in cognitive tests.
The extra mental boost from exercise above 75 minutes, though, was only small.
It wasn’t so much the duration of the exercise, the researchers found, it was more about the intensity.
Dr Eric Vidoni, the study’s first author, said:
“For improved brain function, the results suggest that it’s not enough just to exercise more.
You have to do it in a way that bumps up your overall fitness level.”
One of the participants in the study, Marjorie Troeh, 80, explained she used the study as a way of motivating herself:
“I love exercising my mind, but I hate exercising my body.
I knew about the evidence that said exercise was good for endurance and agility, but I really didn’t make any connection with that and brain health.
I’m surrounded by people who face memory problems.
I’m really anxious to do anything I can to further knowledge in this area.”
The research was published in the journal PLOS ONE (Vidoni et al., 2015).
About the author
Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.
He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book “Making Habits, Breaking Habits” (Da Capo, 2003) and several ebooks:
- Accept Yourself: How to feel a profound sense of warmth and self-compassion
- The Anxiety Plan: 42 Strategies For Worry, Phobias, OCD and Panic
- Spark: 17 Steps That Will Boost Your Motivation For Anything
- Activate: How To Find Joy Again By Changing What You Do
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