This exercise can be a smart workout for your brain at any age

In a new study, researchers found that it’s never too late to lace up some sneakers and work up a sweat for brain health.

They suggest older adults, even couch potatoes, may perform better on certain thinking and memory tests after just six months of aerobic exercise.

The research was conducted by a team at the University of Calgary.

The study involved 206 adults who prior to starting the six-month exercise intervention worked out no more than four days per week at a moderate intensity for 30 minutes or less, or no more than two days per week a high intensity for 20 minutes or less per day.

They had an average age of 66 and no history of heart or memory problems. Participants were given thinking and memory tests at the start of the study, as well as an ultrasound, to measure blood flow in the brain.

Physical testing was repeated at three months, and thinking and physical testing repeated at the end of the six months.

Participants were enrolled in a supervised aerobic exercise program held three days a week.

As they progressed through the program, they increased their workout from an average of 20 minutes a day to an average of at least 40 minutes.

In addition, people were asked to work out on their own once a week.

Researchers found that after six months of exercise, participants improved by 5.7% on tests of executive function, which includes mental flexibility and self-correction.

Verbal fluency, which tests how quickly you can retrieve information, increased by 2.4%.

Before and after six months of aerobic activity, the participants’ average peak blood flow to the brain was measured using ultrasound.

Blood flow rose from an average of 51.3 centimeters per second (cm/sec) to an average of 52.7 cm/sec, a 2.8% increase.

The increase in blood flow with exercise was linked to a number of modest but strong improvements in aspects of thinking that usually decline as people age.

The study showed that six months’ worth of vigorous exercise may pump blood to regions of the brain that specifically improve people’s verbal skills as well as memory and mental sharpness.

The team says aerobic exercise gets the blood moving through the body. It may also get the blood moving to your brain, particularly in areas responsible for verbal fluency and executive functions.

The findings are important for older adults at risk for Alzheimer’s and other dementias and brain disease.

The lead author of the study is Marc J. Poulin, Ph.D., D.Phil. from the Cumming School of Medicine at the University of Calgary in Alberta, Canada

The study is published in Neurology.

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