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Exercise ‘keeps the brain sharp in old age’

Just a single 20-minute bout of exercise may help keep the brain sharp in old age, research suggests. 

Scientists from the University of Iowa analysed 34 people, aged 60-to-80, who rode an exercise bike for the short amount. 

After a single work out, brain scans showed a burst of activity in the participants’ hippocampus, which acts as the ‘memory centre’.

They also had increased connectivity between the hippocampus and the parietal and prefrontal cortexes, regions involved in both memory and cognition. 

‘Day-to-day’ activities could be all it takes to reap the benefits, with the researchers stressing people should not feel they have to ‘train for a marathon’ to keep their memory sharp. 

Exercise may help keep the brain sharp in old age, research suggests (stock)

‘One implication of this study is you could think of the benefits day-by-day,’ lead author Dr Michelle Voss said.

‘In terms of behavioural change and cognitive benefits from physical activity, you can say, “I’m just going to be active today. I’ll get a benefit”.

‘So, you don’t need to think of it like you’re going to train for a marathon to get some sort of optimal peak of performance. 

‘You just could work at it day-by-day to gain those benefits.’

HOW MUCH EXERCISE DO YOU NEED TO DO? 

To stay healthy, adults aged 19 to 64 should try to be active daily and should do:

  • at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity such as cycling or brisk walking every week and
  • strength exercises on 2 or more days a week that work all the major muscles (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders and arms)

Or:

  • 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity such as running or a game of singles tennis every week and
  • strength exercises on 2 or more days a week that work all the major muscles (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders and arms)

Or:

  • a mix of moderate and vigorous aerobic activity every week – for example, 2 x 30-minute runs plus 30 minutes of brisk walking equates to 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity and
  • strength exercises on 2 or more days a week that work all the major muscles (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders and arms)

A good rule is that 1 minute of vigorous activity provides the same health benefits as 2 minutes of moderate activity.

One way to do your recommended 150 minutes of weekly physical activity is to do 30 minutes on 5 days every week.

All adults should also break up long periods of sitting with light activity.

Source: NHS 

 

Exercise has been linked to everything from improved heart health and bone strength to a reduced risk of depression and even cancer.

However, little research has looked at how a single bout of physical activity affects cognition and memory, particularly in older people.  

To learn more, the researchers analysed 34 older people who were healthy but did not exercise frequently.

The participants rode an exercise bike twice for 20 minutes at a time. 

During the first session, the bike had light resistance, which was upped to strenuous the second time round. 

Before and after each work out, the participants underwent brain scans. 

They also completed a memory test. This involved them being shown a set of eight faces that rotated every three seconds, like a flashcard. 

The participants had to decide whether a face they saw two ‘cards’ previously matched the one they were then looking at. 

Results – published in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise – revealed that after both bike rides, some of the participants had bursts of activity, as well as increased connectivity, in their hippocampus.

These same individuals also performed better on the memory tests post work out.  

However, the improvements did not last.

‘The hope is a lot of people will then keep it up because those benefits to the brain are temporary,’ Dr Voss said. 

In a second part of the experiment, the participants pedaled on an exercise bike for 50 minutes at a time three times a week for three months.

One group had moderate-to-intense resistance, while the other did a lighter work out. 

The results showed most of the participants in both groups experienced improvements in their brain scans and memory tests after they completed the exercise regimen.

However, the improvements were no better than after a single 20 minute session on an exercise bike.

‘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 researchers wrote.

They stress, however, the study was small and only included healthy people.

They are therefore repeating the experiment over five years, however, the participants are still healthy, older individuals who are inactive. 

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk


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