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Exercise helps older adults get smarter

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Exercise makes us smarter. finds Canadian study

One of the challenges that accompany aging is staying mentally sharp. Results of a study show older, sedentary adults that received four months of high intensity interval training experienced improved memory, ability to think and make decisions.

Dr. Martin Juneau, director of prevention at the Montreal Heart Institute presented the study October 29, 2012 at the Canadian Cardiovascular Congress.

Juneau said in a press release, "If you talk to people who exercise, they say they feel sharper. Now we've found a way to measure that.”

For this study researchers enlisted adults whose average age was 49, who had been sedentary and overweight. The study group exercised twice a week with circuit training and cycling for 4 weeks.

High intensity interval training - a combination of vigorous exercise interspersed with periods of lower level exercise – not only led to weight loss but it also helped adults in the study think better.

It seems more weight loss equated to more improvements in cognitive function.

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For the study researchers performed neuropsychological testing, measure the participants’ body composition, exercise tolerance, blood flow to the brain and cardiac output – the amount of blood that is pumped out of the heart in 1 minute.

Exercise capacity increased, the group lost weight, fat mass; their waistlines got smaller and they got smarter.

The researchers note medications can help control blood pressure and cholesterol but there isn’t a pill that can improve mental function.

If you can’t find enough time to exercise, Dr. Beth Abramson, Heart and Stroke Foundation spokesperson suggests spreading it out in sessions of 10 minutes or more at a time.

The adults in the current study were 49 years old on average, showing that it’s never too late to start an exercise program that is manageable. It also shows that exercise really can sharpen the mind. Regular daily activity improves blood flow to the brain.

The finding shows exercise not only makes us feel better but he can also make us smarter.

Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada
October 29, 2012

Image credit: Morguefile