Healthy Living

Exercise Boosts Memory And Thinking Abilities In Older Adults, Study Says

A recent study revealed that constant exercise positively and significantly affects human brain functions. It also uncovered that concrete short-term benefits could also point to who benefit from long-term exercise.

On March 24, the Cognitive Neuroscience Society held an annual meeting where a preliminary study was assessed by health professions. According to Science News, cognitive neuroscientist Michelle Voss, of the University of Iowa, and her team conducted brain scans and memory tests on 34 people with an average age of 67 while they were exercising. They used the acute exercise paradigm to analyze exercise’s effects on brain physiology and performance. It was also used as a tool to predict the behavioral and neurobiological outcomes of exercise training.

In the first part of their study, they made the subjects perform a 20-minute cycle exercise rigorously designed to generate sweat. They repeated the process every day and found that those who underwent intense exercise could remember faces better. The MRI scans also signaled stronger connections between brain areas. Voss concluded that one does not need to wait three months to experience the short-term effects of exercise on their brain’s cognition and other functions. The brain boost happened on a daily basis for those who exercise regularly.

Voss added that although regular exercise improves the brain, factors such as aging curb the benefits. A single aerobic exercise of the subjects was found to induce cellular and molecular changes in pathways modified by the training. It affected the subjects' episodic and working memories that deteriorate as a person grows older.

Michelle Carlson, of the Department of Mental Health at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, also pointed out that older adults had difficulty initiating and adhering to the exercise programs. According to her, socioeconomic factors may restrict the person from regularly exercising and this could hamper the benefits of the program to the brain.

Carlson said that the Experience Corps Program was also used to assess the brain benefits of exercise. A controlled trial was conducted on older adults who were encouraged to engage in physical, social and cognitive activities with children in nearby schools. Active participation of the subjects showed that their brain functions and memory improved in a span of six months. A larger randomized controlled trial revealed more benefits in a span of two years.