Older Brains Benefit From More Exercise
Exercise continues to be one of the best things you can do for brain health and performance.
If you’re looking for a fountain of youth or a magic bullet for maintaining your mental abilities, this is as close as you’re going to get.
So it should be an integral part of your daily routine, no matter your age. However, it becomes even more important as you start to get older.
With diseases like Alzheimer’s and words like cognitive decline constantly in the media, it’s natural to start worrying about your brain’s health and function. You want to stay sharp, remain independent, and enjoy life. So how much exercise do you need to maintain your wits and wisdom?
Guidelines for Exercise
The World Health Organization recommends that adults 65 and older get at least 150 minutes of exercise every week.
If you’re wondering what type of exercise that is, they mean 150 minutes of aerobic exercise done at moderate intensity. If you’re able to exercise with more effort, you can do 75 minutes of vigorous activity.
Either level of physical activity should be done in 10 minutes intervals at the very least.
On the WHO website they also say for “additional health benefits” you can double the exercise to 300 and 150 minutes of moderate or vigorous activity, respectively. So what types of additional benefits can your brain expect to see?
More Exercise Equals More Benefits
Researchers from the University of Kansas Medical Center had the same question and wanted to find out. Their results add to our growing knowledge of how much exercise, and what type, can bolster your brain abilities. The findings of their study were published in the journal PLOS ONE.
It was a 6 month experiment in the form of a randomized controlled trial – or RCT. It might sound a little technical, but in research, the RCT is the gold standard for finding concrete evidence.
The subjects in the trial were normal, healthy adults aged 65 and older. They had no known issues with mental health or cognitive decline of any type.
They were split into 4 separate groups. One group didn’t have monitored exercise and the other three groups exercised 75, 150, and 225 minutes per week. This was done to see how different levels of activity might affect cognitive abilities to different degrees.
The basic finding of the experiment was that more exercise saw increase benefits in the older adults cognition. In fact, any level of exercise produced an improvement. In particular they saw increases in attention and focus, as well as visual-spatial processing for the participants.
That may not have been the most interesting finding from the study, however. The findings also hinted that the intensity of the exercise may have mattered more than the duration.
Eric Vidoni, a lead author on the study, stated:
“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.”
For anyone that leads a sedentary lifestyle, this is great news. Even starting an exercise routine, or even just incorporating more physical activity into your day will give you a cognitive boost.
More is Not Always Better
Obviously, one should always consult with a doctor or health professional before beginning any type of workout program. Be smart. Don’t risk your health by pushing yourself beyond your limits. We all have unique health requirements and our physical abilities. It’s important not to lose sight of your general health, especially as you get older.
And not everyone is able to do physical exercise. You know what, that’s okay! Always remember that physical activity in general is great for your mind. Any physical activity is better than no activity at all.
So remember to stay healthy, keep active, and continue to get more out of your brain.