Mind-body maximizes benefits of exercise to seniors

August 4, 2017 by Paul Mayne, University of Western Ontario
Credit: CC0 Public Domain

By 2035, a third of the Canadian population will be over 60 years old. And Kinesiology PhD student Nárlon Boa Sorte Silva wants to make sure every one of them stays active and engaged in life via exercise.

In a recent study, Boa Sorte Silva showed that mind-motor training – an activity that simultaneously engages both cognitive function and movement – used in association with helped stave off the effects of dementia more than just regular exercise alone. These findings could open the door to new physical activity programs and approaches for older adults.

"When we think of older population's needs, in terms of overall health, it is exercise. But we also need to think of cognition," Boa Sorte Silva explained. "We want to target cognitive health as well as overall health."

Originally, Boa Sorte Silva arrived at Western in 2014 for a three-month with Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry and Kinesiology professor Robert Petrella. He has since been fast-tracked for his PhD in Kinesiology.

In his recent research project, conducted in association with Petrella, Boa Sorte Silva followed two groups taking part in exercise programs: One group focused on exercise alone. A second group focused on exercise combined with mind-motor training, in this case, a square-stepping exercise on a gridded floor mat.

With the mind-motor training, subjects performed stepping patterns that slowly got more complicated. They watched a pattern and then attempted to repeat it.

Boa Sorte Silva recently presented his research at the Alzheimer's Association International Conference this past month in London, England.

The study found the group that combined exercise and mind-motor training showed greater improvement in cognition, global and memory. As a side benefit, Boa Sorte Silva said group participants were more socially engaged, as the mind-motor training required participants to encourage and help each other out.

"They become more self-aware of the importance of cognition and mobility," he said.

Petrella agreed. Earlier studies showed that older people who are more socially engaged tend to be more cognitively intact and enjoy life more.

"It's not just about exercise. We know epidemiologically is associated with having better cognitive function. But if you can think about other ways people improve their cognitive ability in the long term – such as puzzles and dancing – all those things may have an impact," Petrella said.

In certain regions of the brain, mobility and cognitive functions co-exist. If you can make a change to that part of the brain, you could can get dual benefit. "And we're finding that," Petrella said.

Explore further: How physical exercise prevents dementia

Related Stories

How physical exercise prevents dementia

July 21, 2017
Numerous studies have shown that physical exercise seems beneficial in the prevention of cognitive impairment and dementia in old age. Now researchers at Goethe University Frankfurt have explored in one of the first studies ...

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 study offers hope in fight against Alzheimer's

May 3, 2017
Could the initiation of a simple walking exercise program help older adults to reverse declines in key brain regions? A new study led by University of Maryland School of Public Health researchers adds more information about ...

Greater muscle strength – better cognitive function for older people

June 26, 2017
Greater muscle strength is associated with better cognitive function in ageing men and women, according to a new Finnish study. The association of extensively measured upper and lower body muscle strength with cognitive function ...

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

April 24, 2017
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 ...

Increasing muscle strength can improve brain function, study says

October 24, 2016
Increased muscle strength leads to improved brain function in adults with Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI), new results from a recent trial led by the University of Sydney has revealed.

Recommended for you

Babies and toddlers at greater risk from second-hand smoke than previously thought, study finds

December 16, 2018
Infants and toddlers in low-income communities may be even more at risk from second- and third-hand smoke exposure than has been believed, according to new federally supported research.

A co-worker's rudeness can affect your sleep—and your partner's, study finds

December 14, 2018
Rudeness. Sarcastic comments. Demeaning language. Interrupting or talking over someone in a meeting. Workplace incivilities such as these are becoming increasingly common, and a new study from Portland State University and ...

A holiday gift to primary care doctors: Proof of their time crunch

December 14, 2018
The average primary care doctor needs to work six more hours a day than they already do, in order to make sure their patients get all the preventive and early-detection care they want and deserve, a new study finds.

Teens get more sleep with later school start time, researchers find

December 12, 2018
When Seattle Public Schools announced that it would reorganize school start times across the district for the fall of 2016, the massive undertaking took more than a year to deploy. Elementary schools started earlier, while ...

Large restaurant portions a global problem, study finds

December 12, 2018
A new multi-country study finds that large, high-calorie portion sizes in fast food and full service restaurants is not a problem unique to the United States. An international team of researchers found that 94 percent of ...

Receiving genetic information can change risk

December 11, 2018
Millions of people in the United States alone have submitted their DNA for analysis and received information that not only predicts their risk for disease but, it turns out, in some cases might also have influenced that risk, ...

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.