Aerobic exercise, not only helps in improving physical health, but also boosts mental abilities, says a new study review.
People lose cognitive ability with age. For long it was believed that taking part in activities that make the brain work, like solving puzzles, helps people improve mental flexibility in old age. Previous studies have shown that taking part in everyday activities too can act as a buffer in cognitive decline. People with high intellectual ability remain mentally healthy till very old age, according to another study.
The new study has shown that physical activity helps brain remain healthy in old age.
Researchers found that aerobic exercise can improve task switching, selective attention and working memory among others. Data from this study review found that people who were physically fit had higher scores on mental ability test than people who weren't as fit. Also, mental ability test scores improved in people who started taking part in physical activities.
Surprisingly, the benefits of aerobic exercise on mental ability were seen only in older people and not in children or young adults. But, researchers found that physical health improved memory of people across all age groups.
In older people, improved physical health had a positive impact on mental abilities that are needed in tasks like driving.
Researchers say that exercise can be an easy way to improve cognitive ability in older adults. They add that more research is needed to find out the effects of physical activity on mental health of young adults.
However, "the indications reported thus far - that regular exercise can benefit brains even when they are in their prime developmentally - warrant more rigorous investigation, particularly in the context of society becoming increasingly sedentary," the authors concluded.
The study is published in Psychonomic Bulletin and Review.