Improve cognitive ability in old age with exercise


Life, Health

Exercise is good for aging brain: Study.

The boost in cognition and memory from a single exercise session lasted only a short while for those who showed gains. (Photo: Representational/Pixabay)

Washington: Exercise offers innumerable benefits and one among them is a boost to the mind, suggests a study.

The study published in the journal, Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, has found that a single bout of exercise improves cognitive functions and working memory in some older people.

In experiments that included physical activity, brain scans, and working memory tests, the researchers also found that participants experienced the same cognitive benefits and improved memory from a single exercise session as they did from longer, regular exercise.

"One implication of this study is you could think of the benefits day by day," said Michelle Voss, the study's corresponding author.

Voss wanted to tease out how a single session of exercise may affect older individuals. Her team enrolled 34 adults between 60 and 80 years of age who were healthy but not regularly active.

Each participant rode a stationary bike on two separate occasions, with light and then more strenuous resistance when pedalling, for 20 minutes.

Before and after each exercise session, each participant underwent a brain scan and completed a memory test.

In the brain scan, the researchers examined bursts of activity in regions known to be involved in the collection and sharing of memories.

In the working-memory tests, each participant used a computer screen to look at a set of eight young adult faces that rotated every three seconds, flashcard style, and had to decide when a face is seen two 'cards' previously matched the one they were currently viewing.

After a single exercise session, the researchers found in some individuals increased connectivity between the medial temporal, which surrounds the brain's memory center, the hippocampus, and the parietal cortex and prefrontal cortex, two regions involved in cognition and memory. Those same individuals also performed better on memory tests. Other individuals showed little to no gain.

The boost in cognition and memory from a single exercise session lasted only a short while for those who showed gains, the researchers found.

The participants also engaged in regular exercise, pedalling on a stationary bike for 50 minutes three times a week for three months. One group engaged in moderate-intensity pedalling, while another group had a mostly lighter workout in which the bike pedals moved for them.

Most individuals in the moderate and lighter-intensity groups showed mental benefits, judging by the brain scans and working memory tests given at the beginning and at the end of the three-month exercise period. But the brain gains were no greater than the improvements from when they had exercised a single time.

"The result that a single session of aerobic exercise mimics the effects of 12 weeks of training on performance has important implications both practically and theoretically," the authors wrote.