How To Make Your Brain 20 Years Younger

This can benefit adults of any age.

This can benefit adults of any age.

Regular exercise, such as walking or cycling, can make your brain 20 years younger, research finds.

The older someone is, the more they have to gain from a little exercise.

However, even 20-year-olds can improve their brain power by doing some exercise.

Both young and old were able to improve their ‘executive function’ over six months.

Executive function is the ability to pay attention, achieve goals and control behaviour.

Exercise also makes the brain thicker and healthier, the study showed.

Dr Yaakov Stern, study co-author, said:

“As people age, there can be a decline in thinking skills, however our study shows that getting regular exercise may help slow or even prevent such decline.

We found that all participants who exercised not only showed improvements in executive function but also increased the thickness in an area of the outer layer of their brain.”

Cortical thickness

The six-month study included 132 people aged 20 to 67 with below average fitness levels who were otherwise healthy.

They were split into two groups: one did stretching and toning while the other did aerobic exercise four times a week.

People chose aerobic activities that suited them, from cycling, walking on a treadmill, to using an elliptical machine.

The results showed that aerobic exercise improved thinking skills in comparison to merely stretching and toning.

Both twenty-year-olds and older people benefitted — but it was older people who had the most to gain.

Dr Stern said:

“…the people who exercised were testing as if they were about 10 years younger at age 40 and about 20 years younger at age 60.

Since thinking skills at the start of the study were poorer for participants who were older, our findings suggest that aerobic exercise is more likely to improve age-related declines in thinking skills rather than improve performance in those without a decline.”

Those who exercised also developed greater cortical thickness in the left frontal area.

The study was published in the journal Neurology (Stern et al., 2019).

Author: Dr Jeremy Dean

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.

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