As we age, the first thing to go is our memory.
But is there a way to prevent it?
While it’s probably not possible to prevent it, there may now be a way to keep your brain running as fast as it did in your 20s and 30s after memory loss settles in, according to new research from the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise.
According to the study, which was led by researchers from the University of Texas at Austin, middle aged adults who exercised for at least 4 days a week performed better on memory tests compared to those who did not exercise at all, showing exercise alone could benefit the brain.
And the reason why? These participants had better blood flow in the brain, helping keep their memory sharp.
“The findings from this study suggest that middle-age runners do not only have better cardiovascular function and health, but also enhanced cognitive performance, particularly in the domains linked with age related cognitive decline and impairment,” says Martha Pyron, M.D., lead author of the study and a specialist in sports medicine at Medicine in Motion.
To investigate, researchers recruited 59 adults between the ages of 43 to 65, 32 of whom were endurance-trained subjects. The rest were described to have a sedentary lifestyle.
First, they measured their overall fitness levels with a simple treadmill test, which researchers used to categorize them as either active or inactive.
Researchers then had them undergo a series of tests to examine their cognitive functioning, a sign of how well their brain worked.
After completing these tests, researchers compared the results–and found that those who stayed active at least 4 times per week scored better when it came to their cognition.
Those who did not exercise regularly did not perform as well, however.
“The purpose of this study was to determine the associations among cardiorespiratory fitness, cerebral and peripheral vascular reactivity, and cognitive function in the sedentary and endurance-trained middle-aged adults,” write researchers in the online version of Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. “Endurance-trained middle-aged adults demonstrated better cognitive performance which may, at least in part, be mediated by their enhanced vascular function, including cerebral and endothelial-dependent vascular reactivity.”
In conclusion, researchers say aerobic exercise could be key to improving cognitive performance, though further tests are needed.
What This Means For You
Want to improve your memory as you get older? While there’s no way to prevent memory loss, you can boost your brain power in a simple way–by doing aerobic workouts at least 4 times per week. Research shows people who exercise this much have better cognitive function, a sign of improved brain health.
Readers: Do you do aerobic exercise? Why or why not?
Exercise Makes You Smarter as You Age – RunnersWorld.com
Cerebral/Peripheral Vascular Reactivity and Neurocognition in Middle-Age Athletes (Study) – LWW.com
Boomer Alert: Exercise Keeps Your Brain Young – MNN.com