Now, researchers from the American Academy of Neurology have found that engaging in aerobic exercise can be a great way for consumers to stay mentally sharp. The findings were overwhelmingly positive, even for those who were older and didn’t exercise on a regular basis.
“As we all find out eventually, we lose a bit mentally and physically as we age,” said researcher Marc J. Poulin, PhD. “But even if you start an exercise program later in life, the benefit to your brain may be immense. Sure, aerobic exercise gets blood moving through your body. As our study found, it may also get blood moving to your brain, particularly in areas responsible for verbal fluency and executive functions. Our findings may be important, especially for older adults at risk for Alzheimer’s and other dementias and brain disease.”
Boosting brain function
The researchers had over 200 participants involved in the study. On average, the participants were in their mid- to late sixties. Before the study, members of the group admitted that they only engaged in minimal, mild workouts. The researchers recorded a baseline of their vitals, including their physical fitness and cognitive function.
The experiment went on for six months, during which the participants were guided through an aerobic exercise three times per week. The exercise routine started off mild and intensified as the study progressed. Halfway through the study, the researchers reassessed the participants’ physical capacities. They then evaluated both physical and mental faculties at the six-month mark.
By the end of the six months, the researchers found noticeable improvements to the participants’ cognitive function. Not only did they notice greater blood flow to different parts of the brain, but when it came time to check memory and verbal skills, the participants scored higher after adopting an exercise routine.
According to Dr. Poulin, the improvements they observed in the participants’ ability to recall information were equivalent to “what you’d expect to see in someone five years younger.”
“Our study showed that six months of vigorous exercise may pump blood to regions of the brain that specifically improve your verbal skills as well as memory and mental sharpness,” Dr. Poulin said. “At a time when these results would be expected to be decreasing due to normal aging, to have these types of increases is exciting.”