Aerobic and resistance exercise combo can boost brain power of over 50s

April 24, 2017
Credit: Peter Griffin/Public Domain

A combination of aerobic and resistance exercises can significantly boost the brain power of the over 50s, finds the most comprehensive review of the available evidence to date, published online in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.

And the effects were evident irrespective of the current state of an individual's , the analysis shows.

Physical for older adults is seen as a promising means of warding off or halting a decline in brain health and cognitive abilities. Yet the evidence for its benefits is inconclusive, largely because of overly restrictive inclusion criteria in the reviews published to date, say the researchers.

In a bid to try and plug some of these gaps, they systematically reviewed 39 relevant studies published up to the end of 2016 to assess the potential impact of varying types, intensities, and durations of exercise on the brain health of the over 50s.

They included ; resistance training (such as weights); multi-component exercise, which contains elements of both aerobic and resistance training; tai chi; and yoga in their analysis.

They analysed the potential impact of these activities on overall brain capacity (global cognition); attention (sustained alertness, including the ability to process information rapidly); executive function (processes responsible for goal oriented behaviours); memory (storage and retrieval); and working memory (short term application of found information).

Pooled analysis of the data showed that exercise improves the of the over 50s, irrespective of the current state of their brain health.

Aerobic exercise significantly enhanced cognitive abilities while had a pronounced effect on , memory, and working memory.

The evidence is strong enough to recommend prescribing both types of exercise to improve brain health in the over 50s, say the researchers.

The data showed that tai chi also improved , which backs the findings of previously published studies, but the analysis was based on just a few studies, caution the researchers, so will need to be confirmed in a large clinical trial.

Nevertheless, it's an important finding, they suggest, because exercises like tai chi may be suitable for people who are unable to do more challenging forms of physical activity.

And in terms of how much and how often, the data analysis showed that a session lasting between 45 and 60 minutes, of moderate to vigorous intensity, and of any frequency, was good for health.

The researchers point to some potential limitations of their review: their evidence was confined only to studies of supervised exercise and which had been published in English.

Nevertheless, they conclude: "The findings suggest that an exercise programme with components of both aerobic and resistance type training, of at least moderate intensity and at least 45 minutes per session, on as many days of the week as possible, is beneficial to cognitive function in adults aged over 50."

Explore further: Exercise can significantly improve brain function after stroke

More information: Exercise interventions for cognitive function in adults older than 50: a systematic review with meta-analysis, British Journal of Sports Medicine (2017). DOI: 10.1136/bjsports-2016-096587

Related Stories

Exercise can significantly improve brain function after stroke

February 22, 2017
Structured exercise training can significantly improve brain function in stroke survivors, according to research presented at the American Stroke Association's International Stroke Conference 2017.

Exercise: the cellular 'fountain of youth'

March 28, 2017
(HealthDay)—High-intensity exercise may help older adults reverse certain aspects of the "cellular" aging process, a new study suggests.

Regular aerobic exercise boosts memory area of brain in older women

April 8, 2014
Regular aerobic exercise seems to boost the size of the area of the brain (hippocampus) involved in verbal memory and learning among women whose intellectual capacity has been affected by age, indicates a small study published ...

Weight-lifting can help over 55s improve brain function and muscle strength

December 15, 2016
Over 55s with mild cognitive impairment can improve their brain function by building muscle strength, a new study shows.

Aerobic exercise preserves brain volume and improves cognitive function

November 30, 2016
Using a new MRI technique, researchers found that adults with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) who exercised four times a week over a six-month period experienced an increase in brain volume in specific, or local, areas of ...

Study highlights the importance of physical activity and aerobic exercise for healthy brain function

December 2, 2015
Regardless of gender, young adults who have greater aerobic fitness also have greater volume of their entorhinal cortex, an area of the brain responsible for memory. Better aerobic fitness however does not appear to impact ...

Recommended for you

To reduce postoperative pain, consider sleep—and caffeine

August 18, 2017
Sleep is essential for good mental and physical health, and chronic insufficient sleep increases the risk for several chronic health problems.

Despite benefits, half of parents against later school start times

August 18, 2017
Leading pediatrics and sleep associations agree: Teens shouldn't start school so early.

Doctors exploring how to prescribe income security

August 18, 2017
Physicians at St. Michael's Hospital are studying how full-time income support workers hired by health-care clinics can help vulnerable patients or those living in poverty improve their finances and their health.

Schoolchildren who use e-cigarettes are more likely to try tobacco

August 17, 2017
Vaping - or the use of e-cigarettes - is widely accepted as a safer option for people who are already smoking.

Federal snack program does not yield expected impacts, researchers find

August 17, 2017
A well-intentioned government regulation designed to offer healthier options in school vending machines has failed to instill better snacking habits in a sample of schools in Appalachian Virginia, according to a study by ...

In a nutshell: Walnuts activate brain region involved in appetite control

August 17, 2017
Packed with nutrients linked to better health, walnuts are also thought to discourage overeating by promoting feelings of fullness. Now, in a new brain imaging study, researchers at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.